Commentary

Left tackle Gary Zimmerman: In the words of ...

Originally Published: August 1, 2008
By Chris Conetzkey

Gary ZimmermanAllen Kee/Getty ImagesSeven-time Pro Bowler Gary Zimmerman was an anchor at left tackle for the Vikings and Broncos, protecting John Elway's blindside for five years and paving running lanes for Terrell Davis.

Teammate Mark Schlereth
Schlereth, who played three seasons at left guard next to Zimmerman with the Broncos, on what drove Zimmerman to be a dominant left tackle:

"He was as paranoid as anybody I ever played by. I think that was one of the things that made him great is that he always had convinced himself by Sunday that the guy he was going against was the best player he ever lined up against in his whole life.

"I was always a guy that studied and prepared and got myself ready to play, and when I got to Denver and played beside Gary, I grew in my preparation, and I grew in the way I practiced, because Gary was a consummate professional. So playing beside him helped me in my last six years go become a better football player.

"Again it comes down to his paranoia, his fear of failure, and I've always felt that's what sets really good football players apart. And even when he was at the top of his game as good as he could possibly be, he did not want to fail, he did not want to make a mistake, he did not want to get beat. And he would lose sleep over the thought of getting beat."

Gary Zimmerman
Zimmerman on what Denver's 31-24 win over Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII -- his final NFL season -- meant to him:

"Well, because I played for so long, and the longer I played, the more apparent it was becoming to me how hard it was to get a Super Bowl. Just to get to the Super Bowl -- you know, I got close several times, but it was like I really never knew how hard it actually was to get one, and then to get there and have one shot at it, it was pretty special.

"It was just relief, because it was going back and forth the whole game, and it was like, well, whoever got the ball was going to win. I was just relieved that it was over and ended the way that it did. It was kind of a storybook ending there for myself."

A Story
Schlereth on helping Zimmerman cope with his usual pre-play paranoia:

"As soon as John Elway was in the huddle, Gary would get the play before John would even tell the rest of the people in the huddle. And as soon as we would break the huddle, as we would walk up to the line of scrimmage, Gary would ask me what to do on every play, 'What do we do, what do we got, what do I do, what do we got Mark.' So I'd be like 'calm down I'll tell you, let's get lined up and see what they are in.'

"So I would basically be relaying what we were going to do on the play. But see, Gary knew. Gary knew exactly what to do. He was a very intelligent football player. But he just liked to have that affirmation to know we were on the same page. And I'd tell Gary on every play what to do and he would go out and execute eight times better that I could. He would block his guy, my guy and two other guys on his way to his guy. He was just exceptional in that way."