Father of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer dies

The father of Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer died Tuesday night in Florida.

Bill Zimmer, the father of Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, died Tuesday night in Florida at the age of 84.

Mike Zimmer left the team early last week to be with his ailing father and reminisced last Thursday about watching some film of training camp practice with his dad while he was in a hospital bed. Mike was hopeful last week that Bill would be able to have another procedure to get relief from complications from a surgery two years ago when the doctor hit a nerve that caused numbness in Bill’s leg.

Mike said Wednesday the death was unexpected. He will leave the team Sunday to attend Monday’s funeral in Florida.

“It’s been rough,” Mike said after Wednesday’s practice, pausing to gather himself and his thoughts. “My dad was a heck of a mentor. I got some letters from people saying what an influence he had on a lot of people’s lives. He’d been sick, but we didn’t expect it.”

Mike was at practice Wednesday morning but didn’t address the team about his father’s death.

“I just found out and I was like, ‘Wow!’ You couldn’t tell with this guy. He’s so energetic,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “He always comes out with the same demeanor and that’s to get better each and every day. I really couldn’t tell. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and let him know we’re here for him. If he needs us, we’re here. But Coach Zim is a strong cat, man. He’s a strong guy.”

Applying a lesson he learned from his dad, Mike used his work to take his mind of the loss of his influential father, who was a high school football and wrestling coach in Illinois before retiring to Florida.

“You’ve got to concentrate and you go to work. You get around the guys and that helps too,” Mike said.

“He taught me so many things about the way to work, the way to get up in the morning and if you have a problem to continue to work on it to get it fixed. He was driving around to (sports) clinics his whole life. But maybe the biggest thing that I take, and I’ve said this before about him, but he’d take a high school team that one year ran the wishbone and the next year they’d run a spread offense. He wasn’t afraid to try things. He wasn’t afraid to change and learn new things. That was good.”

Zimmer’s daughters, Corri and Marki, attended Wednesday’s morning practice and his son, Adam, is the Vikings’ linebackers coach.

“It’s a time for family. They came down this morning for a little while,” Mike said of his daughter, saying their presence there helped both him and his daughters.

Mike addressed the team after last Monday’s practice when he left camp to be with his father. Mike wasn’t at last Tuesday’s practice but returned for practices Thursday and Friday, as well as Sunday night’s preseason opener, and was hopeful Bill would be moved to a long-term care facility.

“Having been through it on a couple different occasions, it’s the hardest thing to go through. Your father, your mother, it’s a tough time and it doesn’t matter if they’ve been sick or it’s sudden,” said offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who took over head coaching duties during last Tuesday’s practice when Mike was in Florida. “It hits you and it’s hit Mike. He’s as tough as there is, but it’s difficult. The greatest thing about being involved in a team sport like we’re involved in is you become family immediately and he’s getting a lot of support from the coaches here and the players here. He means a lot to us and you don’t want to see anyone going through a difficult time.”

The Vikings’ next preseason game is Saturday night in Minneapolis against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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