Playing football in Germany
T-Birds’ assistant coach starts third season as pro
By Holly Neumann
Colton Zimmerman loves the game of football.
In fact, he loves the game so much that he could be found on the sidelines with the Iola-Scandinavia Thunderbirds this season as an assistant coach and in charge of calling the defense.
Now that the T-Birds’ season has ended, the 2008 I-S graduate who helped lead the team to the Division 6 state championship game in 2007, is turning his attention to returning to Germany for a third season of professional football.
“I was approached by (I-S football) coach (Scott) Erickson about helping out with the team this season and with all he has done for me, from shaping me into a better person to making me the best football player I could be, the least I can do is help,” Zimmerman said. “Coaching has been a great experience. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a great coaching staff and great athletes that are all equally invested in the program and the drive to win games.”
Zimmerman brings plenty of real-life experiences with him.
“I first went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth on a scholarship,” he said. “I transferred to Stevens Point, where I played four years as a cornerback and return specialist.”
After his senior year of college, a professional team from the German Football League approached him about playing.
“The game is the exact same as college football,” Zimmerman said. “All the same rules, except players can get paid and even have individual sponsors. I decided this was a great way to see Europe and still play the game I love.”
Zimmerman headed to Germany for the first time in 2013.
“My rookie season, I played for the Franken Knights,” he said. “I played everywhere. I played cornerback and return specialist, but toward the end of the season, I played running back and averaged just over 100 yards a game rushing. I even took snaps as quarterback in the wildcat formation.”
He returned to Germany last year and suited up for the Cologne Falcons.
“I played strictly cornerback, where I was matched against the opponent’s best wide receiver and return specialist,” he said. “We were one game away from the championship game.”
After completing two seasons, Zimmerman decided to return to the area to complete his college degree.
He is the son of Mike and Michelle Koch and the grandson of Chuck and Pat Zimmerman, all of Iola.
“My biggest influence of course is my family,” he said. “They have supported my decision to play on and have always been there throughout my life to guide me in a positive direction. My reason for taking off a year was to finish up my pre-law degree. As I have said, my family has always supported me and I knew seeing their son/grandson graduate college would mean a lot to them.”
Zimmerman is planning on heading back to Germany in mid-April, as he has already signed with Franken for another season.
“My hopes as a player aren’t as high as they once were,” he said. “I do hope to use my skills as a football player to see the rest of Europe and continue to play at the highest level for as long as I can and, of course, stay healthy.”
He sees coaching in his future as well.
“As a coach, I want to have a positive impact on young men,” he said. “Not only do I want to give the football knowledge I have gained over the years, but I also want to help these guys become the best they can be on and off the field.
“I want to make sure that I am making athletes not only the best football player they can be, but the best man they can be as well,” he added. “Football is a very small fraction in life. Your character is forever.”