Gary Zimmerman helped guide the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl Championship in 1997. As a left tackle who protected John Elway and created running space for Terrell Davis to work, Zimmerman was the unsung hero of that team. NFL.com put together a great video of his Hall of Fame career:
Zimmerman will join Kellen Winslow (HOF class of ’95) on Sunday at the Broncos-Chargers game to voice their choice for the Hall of Fame Class of 2010. This is part of The Van Heusen Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan’s Choice program which is,
“The first-ever dedicated forum for pro football fans to “voice their choice” and cast their ballot by voting for the players, coaches and contributors they believe deserve to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010. Onsite fans will have the opportunity to:
- Interact with Hall of Fame greats
- Vote for their choice for the Class of 2010
- Check out memorabilia from the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The event is from noon until kickoff in Lot C at Invesco Field. Zimmerman and Winslow will participate in a panel discussion about prospects for the class of ’10 and interact with fans.
I had the opportunity to speak with Gary Zimmerman this afternoon to get his thoughts on his career, former teammates, and the current Broncos team.
Becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a huge accomplishment. Zimmerman joined this exclusive group in 2008 when he entered with Art Monk, Darrell Green, Fred Dean, Emmitt Thomas, and Andre Tippett. According to Zimmerman, “It validated my career…In my own mind, I gave it my best shot every time I took the field.” He says as time goes by, he appreciates the accomplishment much more than when he was first inducted.
Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, and Karl Mecklenburg are former Broncos that played with Zimmerman, and are also on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. I asked Zimmerman to say a few words about each of these players.
He said Shannon Sharpe was a fierce competitor who was fun to play with. “He could talk so well that it broke up the monotony…He will probably be the next Bronco to go in.”
Zimmerman says, “Terrell Davis had a promising career that ended short because of a knee injury. He could have set all kinds of records. He took a lot of heat off John [Elway] because he could explode through the middle at any time.”
Even though Steve Atwater was on the other side of the ball, Zimmerman says, “He was a great guy in the locker room, a great leader…He brought the wood…hit people hard.”
Zimmerman spoke very highly of Karl Mecklenburg. He said “Karl had a horseshoe in his helmet, and never took a down off. He forced me to work hard in practice…He was a great player, but doesn’t have the stats…”
Zimmerman played left tackle for the Broncos from ’93-’97. Traditionally, the left tackle position was just another position on the offensive line. Today, it is one of the most important positions on offense. Most QBs in the league are right handed, so they need someone strong on the left side to protect their blindspot. Most teams are right handed, and so the left tackle usually goes up against the best pass rusher. According to Zimmerman, “It only took one hit, and your season could be over,” when referring to the possibility of John Elway taking a hard hit and being lost for the season. Talk about non-direct pressure.
When I asked Zimmerman who the best defensive linemen were that he faced he said, “Every week, they’re all tough. Derrick Thomas in Kansas City because of the noise factor. At home, he was more manageable…Richard Dent, Charles Haley, Chris Doleman who I played with in Minnesota. Games were easier than practicing against him.”
Zimmerman describes current Broncos left tackle, Ryan Clady, as having a “hell of a start. He’s got the feet, the agility…He could make a name for himself, but I don’t want to jinx him.”
As far as this current Broncos team is concerned, Zimmerman says, “People jump on and off the bandwagon. The season is long, and I’m not ready to start throwing dirt on them yet.”
For the Broncos to win on Sunday, Zimmerman says they need to “limit mistakes. There’s no secret formula to winning. It’s just hard nosed, mistake-free football.”
That sounds like a certain coach I know, and I like the Mc-Sound of it!