Zim Went Out A Champion
Halfway through my list of the 5 former Broncos that should be enshrined in the Hall, and by now I am feeling more and more confident that the players remaining will get in, it's just a matter of when. Let's take a look at #3.
3. Gary Zimmerman, Offensive Tackle (5 Seasons w/ Broncos - 1993-1997) - Initially my feelings towards Zimmerman on this list were a bit jaded. Having played a larger portion of his career in Minnesota deviated from my criteria of guys that were "true" Denver Broncos. Much of that wained quickly, however, when the Broncos added Zim to the Ring of Fame in 2003. If he's good enough for Pat Bowlen, he's good enough for me.
The fact that Zimmerman has yet to be enshrined is a bit puzzling to me. Eligible the year before John Elway, I wasn't that surprised he didn't get in immediately. I mean, honestly ask yourself, who did you want to be the first Bronco in the Hall - Zimmerman or Elway? Right, me too. I give the voters a pass for his first year, and even his second year, allowing Elway to take all the glory for himself. The past few years? No idea. While the committee should not need the help, let's do our best to provide them with some arguments for Zim, since there don't appear to be many against him.
For starters, and that word seems to fit perfectly for Zim, he appeared in 184 games in his 12 seasons. He started every one of them. 169 of them, and if you are doing the math it is over 10 seasons, were consecutive before a shoulder operation sidelined Zimmerman for the final 2 games of the 1997 season.
Among Zimmerman's awards are 8 Pro Bowl trips, named All-NFL 4 times, NFL Lineman of the Year in 1987, and perhaps the most impressive, Zimmerman was named to the All-Decade team in the 80's and90's, one of only 10 players to have made consecutive All-Decade Teams.
While already a respected lineman when he was acquired by the Broncos in 1993, Zimmerman helped the Broncos offense attain greater levels of offensive production. In 1997, Zimmerman was a huge piece of the Super Bowl puzzle, though getting Zimmerman to play at all was challenging to say the least. -
In order to accomplish this, the team pulled out all the stops.
"(Offensive line) coach (Alex) Gibbs called to try to talk me into coming back for another season," Zimmerman recalls, offering an ornery smirk that suggests he feels a sense of satisfaction when recalling the story. "I knew I'd be coming back, but I wanted to find out how serious they were. So, I told him, `If you guys are really serious about having me back, send Elway up here.' The next day, Elway was outside my tent."
That's the ultimate testament to Zimmerman's greatness. In the midst of training camp, the Broncos were willing to send the greatest player in the history of the franchise on a 350-mile recruiting trip into the heart of biker country.
By the time camp ended a few weeks later, Zimmerman was back in the fold. And the rest, as they say, is history. With one of the best left tackles to ever play the game firmly entrenched on the offensive line, the Broncos completed their 1997 revenge tour - culminating the season with a 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.
The Broncos know how great Gary Zimmerman was. Now it's time for Hall of Fame voters to pay Zim his due.
My Odds - 5/1