Former Redbird Mike Zimmer signed Monday to play for the Minnesota Vikings. His new head coach? Former Redbird Mike Zimmer.


Yes, in a strange coincidence, free-agent linebacker Mike Zimmer ’13 was signed by the Vikings, who are led by first-year coach Mike Zimmer ’79. They’re not related, but they’re both former Redbird football players.

Zimmer (the linebacker) played from 2009-2012 at Illinois State, earning First-Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors after finishing with 127 tackles as a senior. Zimmer (the coach) began as a player but went into coaching and became a student assistant for the Redbird defensive coaching staff.

The media had lots of fun with Zimmer’s signing Monday, with headlines such as this gem from “Vikings sign LB Mike Zimmer, who’s totally not coach Mike Zimmer.”

Even the Vikings organization got into the fun, with this tweet:

Zimmer (the linebacker) joins the Vikings after spending the 2013 training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Zimmer signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State and appeared in four preseason games with the Jaguars in 2013, recording one tackle.

Zimmer (the coach) was named the Vikings head coach in January, his first top job in the NFL after more than 35 years of coaching. He graduated with a degree in physical education-teacher education but has spent his entire career coaching college and professional football.

And, just to complicate things, can you guess the name of the Vikings’ linebackers coach? It’s Adam Zimmer. He is the coach’s son.

Zimmer (the linebacker) is only the latest Redbird to be making moves into and around the NFL. Former ISU football standouts Colton Underwood and Josh Aladenoye recently signed undrafted free agent deals with the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. In addition, former Illinois State defensive tackle Shelby Harris was selected in the 7th round of the draft by the Oakland Raiders.

That trio joins former Redbirds and teammates Nate Palmer (Green Bay Packers) and Cody White (Houston Texans) on current NFL active or practice squad rosters.

Ryan Denham can be reached at