To honor the life of Vikki Zimmer, Mike Zimmer and his family have created The Mike Zimmer Foundation to benefit the communities of Minnesota and keep Vikki’s big heart and giving spirit alive.
THE MIKE ZIMMER FOUNDATION
The Mike Zimmer Foundation was created by Coach Zimmer and his family in honor of loving wife and mother, Vikki Zimmer.
The Mike Zimmer Foundation aims to better lives of children in need by helping them chase their dreams, giving them the tools to do so, promote a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as stress the importance of education, hard work, and teamwork. Some of our work includes: college scholarships, free youth football camps, backpack drives, game day experiences, Shop with A Pro, and teaming up with Children's hospitals and the Salvation Army. To learn more about our programs click here.
Mike Zimmer enters his 8th season as Vikings Head Coach in 2021 having notched 66 wins including playoffs in his 7 seasons leading the team with a pair of NFC North titles and 3 playoff appearances.
Zimmer was hired as the 9th head coach in Vikings history on Jan. 15, 2014. A veteran defensive coordinator, 2020 marks Zimmer's 27th season on an NFL sideline. In his NFL tenure, Zimmer has been a part of 14 playoff teams and teams that have won 9 Division titles. He coached DBs when Dallas won Super Bowl XXX over Pittsburgh after the 1995 season.
In 2019, the Vikings used a new offensive scheme with a renewed emphasis on balance and a strong ground game to return to the playoffs with a 10-6 mark, earning a Wild Card win at New Orleans and advancing to face #1 seed San Francisco in the Divisional Round. The Vikings offense featured a 1,000-yard rusher (Dalvin Cook- 1,135) a 1,000-yard receiver (Stefon Diggs- 1,130) and 3,000-yard passer (Kirk Cousins- 3,603) for the 1st time since 2009 and the team climbed from #30 in NFL rushing in 2018 to #6 in 2019. Cook joined S Harrison Smith and DE Danielle Hunter as Pro Bowlers while LB Eric Kendricks led the team in tackles for the 5th straight season and earned 1st-Team Associated Press honors for the first time in his career. The team advanced to the playoffs for the 3rd time in the past 5 seasons under Zimmer and notched a road win in overtime at New Orleans in the Wild Card round and advancing to face #1 seed San Francisco in the Divisional Round. Vikings players earned NFC Player of the Week honors 6 times during the season, 3 on special teams by K Dan Bailey, 2 on defense by S Anthony Harris and Hunter and Cook earned offensive honors once. Cousins, Kendricks, DE Everson Griffen and FB C.J. Ham were named to Pro Bowl following the NFC Championship Game.
Before moving to the NFL ranks, Zimmer spent 15 seasons coaching at the collegiate level. He spent his final 5 seasons in the college ranks as defensive coordinator at Washington State from 1989-93. Zimmer was at Weber State from 1981-88, serving as defensive coordinator from ‘83-88. He entered the profession at Missouri as an assistant from 1979-80.
Zimmer played QB and later LB at Illinois State, earning a degree in physical education. He has 3 children - son, Adam, and daughters, Corri and Marki. Adam is the co-defensive coordinator and line backer coach for the Vikings after having spent time with Kansas City, New Orleans and Cincinnati as an assistant LBs and DBs coach. The father and son have each both earned Super Bowl titles with Adam’s coming after the 2009 season when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV over Indianapolis. Coaching is a family tradition with the Zimmers as Mike’s father, Bill, earned Illinois Hall of Fame honors as a prep football and wrestling coach. Zimmer played football, baseball and wrestled at Lockport Township High School in suburban Chicago. Both Bill and Mike Zimmer have been inducted into the Lockport Hall of Fame, and Bill is also in the Bradley University and Illinois High School Hall of Fame.
Vikki Zimmer, Mike’s wife of 27 years, passed away in Cincinnati on Oct. 8, 2009. The Pro Football Writers of America recognized Zimmer overcoming the tragedy by voting him the winner of the Halas Award for the season, an annual award presented to the individual in the NFL that overcame the most adversity to succeed.
To honor the life of Vikki Zimmer, Mike Zimmer and his family have created The Mike Zimmer Foundation to benefit the community of Minneapolis and keep Vikki’s big heart and giving spirit alive.
Mike and Vikki were married for 27 years and had 3 kids together, Adam, Marki, and Corri. Vikki’s life was dedicated to helping others whether it was buying groceries for the homeless, volunteering at children's hospitals and the Salvation Army, or simply leaving a gift for a neighbor on their porch. With her memory in our hearts we hope to give back to the community to Minnesota, one step at a time. Vikki's famous phrase to her husband, kids, and friends was "smile a lot."
"They met under the backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, two kids, seemingly opposite, converging on a jogging track at Weber State University in the early 1980s. She was a pretty, petite dancer who had the distinction of being named Miss Weber State; he was a rugged football coach from Peoria, Ill., whose toughness was forged at birth. Football was everything in the Zimmer family. His dad, Bill, played in the NFL, coached him in high school and taught him how to methodically outwork his opponents.
Football was nowhere on Vikki’s list of interests. She didn’t know what a draw play was, and didn’t exactly care. But it was clear, early on, that Zimmer was smitten. The couple was at a party once with Mike Price, who was then the head coach at Weber State, and Price’s son turned to his dad and told him, in a conversation later relayed to Zimmer: “This is the one. You can tell how he’s acting. That’s the one he’s going to marry.”
Within a year, they were married, thrusting the young ballerina who once played the lead role in “The Nutcracker” into the world of a coach’s wife. To this day, Zimmer jokes, he doesn’t know what Vikki saw in him. But to everyone else around them, it was clear they were the perfect match. Vikki smoothed out Zim’s rough edges. She kept him balanced.
The Zimmers had been to five stops around the college ranks and NFL. But somehow, Vikki managed to hold the family together. She cared more about raising their three kids — Adam (26, then a defensive assistant with the Chiefs), Marki (23) and Corri (20) — than any media analysis of whether Mike’s 4-3 defense was sound.
Sure, she would go to the games, even when times were bad and Zimmer told her to stay home so she wouldn’t be subjected to the fans’ surly comments. Thing is, they were rarely bad with Zim. He helped engineer some of the best defenses in the NFL in Dallas, winning a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer, then thriving under Bill Parcells.
When criticism came down from the stands, within earshot of Vikki, she occasionally would fire back with a, “You don’t know how hard they work!” She was always the compassionate one, everybody’s mother. She shuddered at the four-letter words Zim would rain on his players and told him he needed to be nicer. She softened bruised egos with cookies and brownies.
It would make the old coach roll his eyes, the Post-it notes reminding him to bring in the treats, the trays he’d have to lug in some early mornings when all he wanted to do was break down film and build his guys back up.
Some of the sweetness he never knew about until she was gone. Like how she gave a grocery bag full of food to a homeless lady, then kept another bag of food in her car in case she ran into the woman again.
“She was the sweetest, kindest, most caring person who’d never say a bad word about anybody,” Zimmer says. “I mean, [that] story really typifies her. That was my wife.”
“She was a tiny person with a huge heart and a great smile. She was just a blast to be around.” -Rebecca Bratkowski
Elizabeth Merrell, Senior writer at ESPN.com