Coach Speak: C.J. Zimmerer

Within about 24 hours of receiving his offer from Nebraska, C.J. Zimmerer took the Huskers up on it. Zimmerer a 6-foot-2.5 and 215-pound athlete is projected to play fullback in Nebraska. Zimmerer is the first fullback to receive an offer since Dane Todd, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he does play linebacker. Coach Tim Johnk explains that Zimmerer is a two-way standout.

When the offer was extended to C.J. Zimmerer, it didn't take long for the 6-foot-2.5 and 215-pound standout from Omaha (Nebr.) Gross to accept it. Tim Johnk says that having a player like Zimmerer on the field makes it pretty easy on him as a coach.

"Well, he's a difference maker for us on both sides of the ball," Zimmerer said. "He's such a great leader for us. Our younger kids look up to him and his work ethic.

"There is everything that he brings to the table athletically. He's a great person, a great character kid. He's a person that represents our team and our school extremely well."

Coming from Gross, Zimmerer isn't the first player to go to Nebraska. There have been plenty of players in recent years to do so. They just weren't on scholarship.

"C.J. is the first scholarship football player to head to Nebraska in a while. It's been about 25 years since John McCormick (lettered 1985-87) went to Lincoln in 1983 or 1984.

"We have had a number of players walk on at Nebraska, play and be successful, but this is the first one we have had in 25 years go division one on a full-ride scholarship."

Many wonder what type of other interest was a player receiving before they committed. It's easier to qualify an offer with other offers or at least interest. Nebraska still offered Zimmerer first, but he was getting noticed.

"When C.J. committed, it was the first offer that he had received. Iowa was very interested. They were in a day or two before Nebraska came in and offered him. Their offensive line coach really liked him. I think that there was a chance they would have offered.

"Buffalo was definitely in the picture. Turner Gill and his staff had been in contact with him. I know that he was going to go to camps at Iowa State and Kansas. He isn't going to those anymore. He's just going to Lincoln."

Coach Tim Johnk has a hard time saying that there is one big thing about Zimmerer that makes him special. Instead, there are a whole bunch of big things that when you roll them up together equals the full package.

"I just think that he has the full package. Obviously he has the athletic tools to play the game very well. He's a very intelligent athlete. He has such a great football I.Q. it's like having a coach on the field.

"He just has so many positive things going for him on the field. It's really hard to say it's this one thing. That is why I tend to say he has the full package that you look for in a player."

When you watch film of Zimmerer you see a player that can run the ball and block effectively as a fullback. You also see film of Zimmerer being a very solid and athletic looking linebacker.

"Not saying that he won't play fullback at Nebraska because that is what they recruited him for, but I have been telling people the last year or say that he was a division one linebacker.

"That is just a position that I felt that he could play at the division one level. A lot of teams aren't recruiting fullbacks, or aren't giving scholarships to fullbacks, so I just thought the chances were better to go to school as a linebacker.

"I think that C.J. could play either side of the football in college at Nebraska. I guess that is the nice thing that Nebraska has going with him. If it doesn't work at one position they can flip him over to the other side."

Coach Johnk knows a thing or two about playing fullback. Johnk, from Schuyler (Nebr.), was a fullback at Nebraska from 1987-91 and lettered from 1989-91.

Being previously involved with Nebraska, and seeing Nebraska change recently, has Coach Johnk excited again about Nebraska football and being involved with it again. It's a return to tradition.

"It obviously goes back to the roots of the program. It goes back to the foundation to the program that really started some 30+ years ago with Bob Devaney. It's really neat to see it come back.

"It's great to have the former players being more involved in a lot of different aspects. I can only hope that other kids get to experience what myself and other players got to experience in that program. I am really excited for C.J."

Many wonder if what these former players are doing is paying lip service for their former head coach. Not true. Coach Johnk sees the difference and noted that he was on his way home from an alumni golf tournament.

"Oh no doubt. We are just getting back from a golf tournament. There are 40+ former players that just got back from a golf tournament with the coaching staff in Western Nebraska.

"It was awesome. The last few years that wasn't happening. Coach Bo Pelini and the majority of his coaching staff were there, except for those out recruiting, were all there.

"There was a bunch of us that were there. There were some that were from a little while longer ago and definitely some younger ones that were there. It was really a good time."

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