Window of opportunity: knee injury converts senior tight end into player/coach

When a window of opportunity closes, it has often been discovered that the window to another opportunity opens. The collegiate career of Aggie tight end Zac Zimmerman fully exemplifies this. Zimmerman, a senior in his fifth year in the program, has had a career that has been littered with injuries. After starting in the Southern Utah and BYU games, a reoccurring knee injury sidelined Zimmerman yet again, and ultimately ended his playing days as an Aggie. However, the senior was not done with the football program.”The coaches gave me an opportunity to be kind of a player/coach,” Zimmerman said.It is a position that he has readily welcomed. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come in the life of the injury-plagued athlete.”I’m going for my masters starting in January,” he said. “I’m very interested in coaching in the future.” He has been helping out with the coaching of the young tight ends and helping out with the scout team where ever needed and has taken a load off of the backs of the other coaches.USU’s tight ends coach T.J. Woods chimed in about the new player/coach. “I think the thing that he gives is enthusiasm and a passion for the game that definitely helps me out, being an older guy that cares a lot about football. The guy has been hurt a million times and he just kept coming back, and kept coming back, and finally his body just gave out. But I definitely think that he’s a viable resource for us when we pull in his experience, his game-time experience to help the younger kids out. I think he has been a big part of Kellen Bartlett’s progression.”Zimmerman has progressed and went through a lot of changes and obstacles since he has been here. This is his second time seeing a brand new coach come into the program. He was recruited to Utah State as an offensive lineman, but did not get to play much in his first two seasons. He was bumped around to different positions. His junior season of 2008 is when the coaches switched him to tight end, where he was able to see a lot more action on the field as a tight end and on special teams.”I’ve played four different positions, and I feel like I’ve been through it all here at Utah State,” Zimmerman said.It is truly a unique situation for the fifth-year senior, turned coach. A situation that seems to be making a great coach, a future coach who has been through the ups and downs, one who has played and experienced multiple positions and injuries, and one who can relate to a lot of different guys on a football team. Woods loves what Zimmerman brings to the table in his unique position.”Any program where you have older guys and you have younger guys, you want the older guys to be the role model and I think that Zac is that. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and he prepares the way you’re supposed to prepare. He does everything the right way, and that is definitely a good example for the young kids and I think that he’s taken his new role very well also. He’s helping the coaches, and he is still contributing any way he can which I think says a lot about him and his character and how much he cares about Utah State,” Woods said.Zimmerman is going through his last season at Utah State providing help to his team in any way he can, a gesture that Coach Woods has noticed as being unselfish, especially for a guy during his last chance for a college experience.Zimmerman reminded everyone, “It’s still my senior year.” He also admitted, “I don’t know if I like being called coach, it sounds kind of weird right now.”Even though he may not be fully ready to concede his last year of eligibility and even though he may not be ready to be called coach, Zimmerman has proved that he is ready and willing to do his best with any window of opportunity that may come his way.

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