"TRULY HIS BETTER HALF"
“She was the sweetest, kindest, most caring person who’d never say a bad word about anybody.”
IN MEMORY OF VIKKI ZIMMER
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 where ever and whenever she could, 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.
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