MANKATO, Minn. —Mike Zimmer felt the support of Vikings players and the organization Wednesday when he worked through the difficult news of his father's passing the night before.
Bill Zimmer, 84, died in Naples, Florida, leaving behind a legacy of mentorship as a former coach at Lockport (Illinois) High School where he coached his son and accumulated a record of 164-143-5, the Chicago Tribune* *reported. Bill Zimmer was inducted to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame in 1986.
"It's been rough. My dad was a heck of a mentor," Zimmer said. "I got some letters from people saying what influence he had on a lot of people's lives. He had been sick but we didn't expect it."
Mike Zimmer, his son, linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, and two daughters traveled to Florida Aug. 3 — only after the team's walk-through — when they heard the family patriarch was not doing well and quickly returned after a visit that included watching film together on a tablet computer.
He said he plans to stay with the Vikings and coach them Saturday night in Minnesota's home preseason opener against Tampa Bay, then travel to Florida Sunday for a funeral that is scheduled for Aug. 17.
"He taught me so many things about the way to work, the way to get up in the morning," Zimmer said. "If you've got a problem, continue to work on it to get it fixed. Maybe the biggest thing I take, is he'd take a high school team and one year ran the wishbone, and the next year, they're running the spread offense. He wasn't afraid to try things, to learn new things, so it was good."
Zimmer said focusing on the team helped ease the pain.
"It does. You've got to concentrate," Zimmer said. "You get out here and go to work, you get around the guys and that helps too."
Adrian Peterson said he thinks football and being around a team can provide support.
"I'm sure guys have been walking up to him and his son all day, sending our blessings and love and support," Peterson said. "It's a sad time when you lose a family member. I'm happy they had the opportunity to see him before he passed."
There hasn't been an issue of players not playing hard for Zimmer since he arrived in Minnesota last season, but they vowed to continue to work hard.
"That's what he likes," Barr said. "He's a football junky. That's what he wants us to do."
When told this, Zimmer said, "Honestly, I'd be disappointed if they didn't bust their butts. That's what we do here. We work and grind and things like that. I don't want them to get better for me. I want them to get better for themselves and for us as a team."
Matt Asiata summed up the support succinctly, "He's our head coach, and we love him."