Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a football guy through and through, with his passion and love for the game evident on a daily basis.
Zimmer was recently profiled by Sports Illustrated writer Michael McKnight, who spent time at Zimmer's Kentucky ranch.
McKnight touched on multiple topics with Zimmer, including his time with the Cowboys in the 1990s, his relationship with his father, Bill, and the numerous eye surgeries Zimmer had to endure over the past year.
The full feature piece on Zimmer can be found here, but McKnight also wrote about the relationships Zimmer has built with people and players in his 24 seasons in the NFL.
*To listen to the men who have worked with Zimmer is to believe that this country music fan with one good eye … has a better rapport with his largely twentysomething, mostly African-American roster than any coach in the league. *
"I'm not gonna say he's a players' coach, because he hates that," says Minnesota safety Harrison Smith. "Other coaches, the way they talk to players, it's just not ... real. Nothing about [Zimmer] is fabricated, nothing's fake."
"I didn't know Mike when I went to Dallas," says Bill Parcells, who took over the Cowboys five years after (Barry) Switzer resigned. But Parcells soon saw that his new defensive coordinator "was passionate, committed. He was a tireless worker. Cared about players. I inherited some people who weren't like that. But Mike was a guy I gravitated to."
"It's like he grew up in the inner city, man," says [Deion] Sanders. "He relates to everyone. And he's intelligent. What Zim' said was going to happen in a game, it happened. When your best players see that and start buying in, then everybody follows."
Zimmer is in his fourth season in Minnesota and is 27-22 with the Vikings.
Coller: Vikings Cook & Diggs share things in common with Steelers Bell & Brown
Minnesota's defense has a tall task ahead of them Sunday when the Vikings travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell is known as one of the game's most complete running backs while Zimmer said Wednesday that wide receiver Antonio Brown is "a big play waiting to happen."
With plenty of firepower on the Steelers offense, Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com looked at Pittsburgh's top two skill players and noted that a pair of Vikings could be following the same career path.
Coller wrote that Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Stefon Diggs have the potential to be the breakout stars that Bell and Brown are.
*In Cook's opening game, he flashed a little bit of Bell, using his vision, quick cuts and explosiveness to gain 127 yards on 22 carries. *
"I have a lot of respect for his skills; his perimeter speed is exceptional," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday. "I'm really good friends with his college coach, Jimbo Fisher, so I'm very familiar with his skill set and what he's able to do."
In Week 1, Antonio Brown reminded the NFL that he's one of the elite players at his position with 11 receptions for 182 yards – and so did Stefon Diggs, who caught seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Diggs said this offseason that it's his goal to reach the echelon of which Brown has established himself. The Steelers' top receiver has twice led the NFL in catches with 129 in 2014 and 136 in 2015. He's also gone over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons.
Bell and Cook were both second-round draft picks. Diggs was a fifth-round selection while Brown signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent.