The Dallas Cowboys are seeing a reunion take place in Jackson, Mississippi as Pro Football Hall of Famer and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders adds to his staff.
With a football tree like the Cowboys, reunions and connections are always abundant. But “Neon Deion” always makes headlines, and his latest addition is turning heads as well: Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer is a familiar name for most NFL fans, spending the last eight seasons as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. However, older and well-versed Cowboys fans will remember that he worked up Dallas’ coaching staff starting in 1994, and eventually became the team’s defensive coordinator for seven seasons from 2000 to 2006.
Now, he’s taking his coaching to Jackson. Sanders initially shared a clip of Zimmer talking to the JSU roster, and then Zimmer confirmed he was joining as an analyst to Thee Pregame Show.
“He’s asked me about it a few times. The pay’s not good,” Zimmer initially joked. “But I do love Deion and I’d do anything for him.”
Anytime an NFL head coach joins a college football coaching staff, it’s a big deal. With this gig, it appears as if Zimmer is maintaining his relationship with football but taking his time before getting a fully-involved position again.
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Zimmer Speaks on Sanders’ Coaching Style
In his interview with Thee Pregame Show, Zimmer was asked about Sanders’ coaching and the atmosphere he is seeing at Jackson State.
Zimmer obviously has jokes about his former defensive back, but he shared a sincere appreciation for the former Cowboys star’s willingness to talk about tough topics.
“He can open up so many doors for these young men, but I’m extremely impressed with the way he’s teaching them about life and not just football,” Zimmer said. “And taking care of them, and talking to them about the real things that go on in the world and not the fluff stuff.”
Sanders has seen it all in his well-decorated and eventful career. 14 seasons in the NFL must be translating well, as Jackson State won the SWAC in 2021 under his guidance. Sanders was named the 2021 SWAC Coach of the Year.
Zimmer’s Journey from Cowboys to Vikings HC
Zimmer was a “common thread” between several coaching staff regimes in Dallas, seeing the Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones change head coaches five times without ever being let go from 1994-2006.
After working closely with Sanders as the Cowboys’ defensive backs coach from 1995-1999, Zimmer’s took the reigns of the defense as a whole in 2000, setting up some of Dallas’ strongest defensive teams from the past two decades.
2003 especially stands out, as Dallas gave up the fewest yards in the NFL and only allowed 16.3 points per game. Zimmer eventually left for an ill-fated stint under Bobby Petrino with the Atlanta Falcons, before taking on the DC role with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008-2013.
After 14 seasons in the defensive coordinator role, he finally got his first NFL head coaching job with the Vikings in 2014. Zimmer and Minnesota always put out competitive teams, as the 66-year-old went 72-56 in his tenure.
But similarly to Dallas’ recent years, he couldn’t get over the postseason hump. The Vikings went 2-3 in the postseason under Zimmer, and the team elected to move on from the coach after the 2021 season.