PHOENIX – Upon further review, Mike Zimmer did indeed make it from Mankato to the Super Bowl after his first training camp as a Viking.
No, not that Mike Zimmer, the Vikings coach who played linebacker at Illinois State in the mid-1970s. The other Mike Zimmer. The younger Mike Zimmer who played linebacker at Illinois State before signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent last spring.
Released as a Vikings linebacker in August, Zimmer has resurfaced as a practice squad fullback for the Seahawks. He won’t play Sunday when Seattle plays New England in Super Bowl XLIX. But he’ll be on the field soaking it all in.
“I’d love to play,” Zimmer said. “But to be on the sideline and just be a part of this team is amazing. I’m glad I kept training and believing when the Vikings released me in August.”
Zimmer returned to his family’s home in the Chicago area, where he trained for his next NFL opportunity while helping his mother, Cindy, during a difficult health crisis.
“She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Zimmer said. “She had surgery, finished chemotherapy and is now doing radiation. The outlook looks good because they caught it pretty early. Knock on wood.”
In December, the Seahawks were looking for a fullback for their practice squad. They felt Zimmer’s abilities would fit and also give them more versatility.
“Never played fullback, other than some lead blocker on goal line in college,” Zimmer said. “But I knew I could do it with my skill set. It’s been fun.”
These past two weeks, he has been working on the scout teams at special teams, fullback and some linebacker.
“My future,” he said, “is anywhere a team needs me to play.”
Zimmer said he enjoys playing for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. He had equal praise for the “other” Mike Zimmer and even misses the banter about their shared name.
“During my tryout, Mike did the team introductions and then he came back to the linebackers group and said the difference between us was he was a better athlete at Illinois State,” Zimmer said. “And I quickly said, ‘No, you weren’t.’ ”