This article was originally written by Anthony Picardi and appeared in the Daily Collegian on October 6, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Anthony Zettel has fought more than any opposing offensive lineman this season.
Zettel’s father, who had been battling cancer, passed away the day before the San Diego State game. And as Zettel was preparing for football, he faced a greater challenge with caring for his father and his family.
As his father underwent chemotherapy, Zettel would drive home to support his family the two weeks leading up to his death. Zettel said his father was supportive of him continuing to play in football games despite the circumstance. This backing made his decision to play in the San Diego State game an easy one.
“I think me not playing that game was not even a question,” Zettel said. “You know, I’m playing that game no matter what, for him and for my career, too. That’s what he would want me to do.”
The defensive tackle notched a career-high in tackles and led the Nittany Lions that weekend against the Aztecs, while also recovering a fumble.
“I felt like he was with me there every step of the way,” Zettel said.
One of the final meetings with his father occurred when Penn State has its road trip at Temple for the season opener. Zettel’s father traveled to Philadelphia and the two were able to spend some time together in the hotel.
“That moment, that will stay with me forever,” Zettel said.
As Zettel cared for his family, he received support in return from the coaching staff and his teammates. During this time, the coaching staff gave Zettel a lot of leeway so that the Lion could support his family throughout this hardship, letting him decide if he wanted to play or not.
“I think that anyone who’s close with Anthony takes a tremendous sense of pride in how he’s handled himself,” linebacker Ben Kline said. “It’s been an incredibly difficult time for him.”
Zettel said some of the most special moments he shared with his father included when he watched him walk his sister down the aisle at her wedding, and when the two played golf together a couple months ago. Zettel hit a hole-in-one with his father looking on, a moment that he said he will never forget.
“I know every game I play from now on out or whatever I do in life, he’s going to be with me,” Zettel said.
Penn State continues its season with its homecoming game against Indiana this Saturday. As the season progresses, Zettel and his family are learning to cope. Outside of football, Zettel spends time with his friends often playing video games and talking. However, he still thinks of his father at nighttime as the activities settle down.
“We still will,” Zettel said about him and his family going through a hard time. “But I think when you’ve got a group of guys in the locker room like I have and a group of guys at home, family, friends that surround me with support, I think that really takes the edge off everything.”