New coach brings new attitude
I-S grad to coach football in Weyauwega
By Greg Seubert
Colton Zimmerman recalls strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads to play football on a Friday night.
The 2008 Iola-Scandinavia High School graduate will soon return to the gridiron as the new varsity coach at Weyauwega-Fremont High School.
Zimmerman, who helped lead the Thunderbirds to the WIAA Division 6 state championship game in 2007, replaces Pat Fee.
He will also join the W-F teaching staff as a behavior counselor.
“It’s something I’ve specialized in since I was out of college,” he said. “I’m really excited to be working with (grades) K-12. I get to see the young kids and help them out. I get to be around the older kids and help them be productive citizens in our community.”
After graduating from Iola-Scandinavia, Zimmerman spent one season playing football at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he played four seasons.
“I played with a couple of Iola guys there on defense and we were pretty well versed in playing football,” he said. “It was pretty neat for the guys that played at state (for Iola-Scandinavia) to also be successful in college as well.”
He then spent three years playing professional football in Germany, including two seasons with the Franken Knights and one with the Cologne Falcons.
Back in Iola
In between seasons, Zimmerman was an assistant at Iola-Scandinavia under longtime coach Scott Erickson, his high school coach.
“I came back to Iola in between seasons or after I played in Germany to coach with coach Erickson,” he said. “Most young boys just want to chase girls and play sports. Coach Erickson brought me to a place in leadership that is something that I think is special and should be shared with any player. I was a hard worker, but he taught me that if you’re going to do it by yourself, you’re not going to be very successful. It’s about who you bring with you and that’s something he instilled in me at a very young age.
“Michael Griffin, my best friend and the best man at my wedding, were transplants from Illinois,” he added. “We landed in Iola-Scandinavia with its great athletic program and you can’t ask for a better experience. I talk to coach Erickson frequently and he’s like a father figure to me. I’m trying to emulate that as much as possible for these guys here.”
Zimmerman also coached basketball at Iola-Scandinavia before eventually ending up at the Ashwaubenon School District.
“I kind of bounced around being a behavior specialist in schools and ended up coaching in Ashwaubenon,” he said. “I had a daughter and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’ll be coaching football
for very much longer because I have to get into these girls’ sports.’ I thought I’d be coaching girls’ basketball for the rest of my life.”
Zimmerman wasn’t sure is he’d get another opportunity to coach football again.
“I really thought I’d be coaching girls’ basketball with my daughter and getting ready for that life,” he said. “I did that in Wittenberg, but when I had an opportunity to get back at the varsity level in a town that I appreciate, I would have been absolutely crazy not to accept it. I’m a little behind the eight ball because of being hired late and coming from a different school. We have contact days rolling out this week and I think that’s going to be a great time to see where we’re at.”
Some of Fee’s assistant coaches will remain with the team, Zimmerman said.
“I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of guys that wanted to stay on staff,” he said. “They’re really helping me out and letting me know how these kids operate. I’ve been an assistant and a defensive coordinator, but as the head guy, I stuffed 145 envelopes yesterday for two hours. You think it’s just football and it’s really not.”
Weyauwega-Fremont’s varsity football program has not had a lot of success in the recent past, including an 11-50 record from 2015-21. The Warhawks also haven’t been to the WIAA playoffs since 2007.
Turning the Warhawks’ program around is going to take time, according to Zimmerman.
“I think you have to go to the foundation,” he said. “Kids are stressed out through a bunch of different sports. It’s not how it used to be where you’re in season and this is what it’s all about. They’re playing basketball and baseball year-round and they’re playing more sports than ever before. You’re trying to get kids to lift (weights) and play football. My belief is we have to get kids in the weight room to be able to have confidence among all of those sports. My tactic is we’re going to go after work ethic and sweat equity. Making working out cool again is essentially what I’d like to see happen.
“Let’s be honest, they’ve won 21 games in 10 years,” he said. “It’s hard to turn that mentality of maybe losing is a mindset. What you should be asking yourself is have you earned the right to win and are you putting in the time not only to the weight room, but to the brothers you’re playing the game with. That’s what I had as a team that was so special. We didn’t want to lose for the guy next to us.”
The Warhawks will again compete with Amherst, Manawa, Nekoosa, Shiocton, Spencer/Columbus Catholic, Stratford and Wittenberg-Birnamwood in the Large Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference.
Four teams in the division – Amherst, Stratford, Shiocton and Spencer/Columbus Catholic – have either won or played for a state championship in the past decade.
“The conference structure has changed, but the names remain the same,” Zimmerman said. “I will argue that this is the best conference for football in the state. If you look at state championships across the board, it’s pretty remarkable, to be honest.
“I’d have it no other way than playing in this conference,” he said. “That way, you know what you’re worth come playoff time. You’ve played the best in the state and you’re going to make some noise in the playoffs. Our goal is to deliver. If you can’t see it happening, it isn’t going to happen. You have to earn that right to even see that vision.”
Season starts soon
The Warhawks are scheduled to open the season Thursday, Aug. 18, against Pacelli at Goerke Field in Stevens Point.
The home opener in Weyauwega against Rosholt is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 26.
“We are no different than any other school in the state, especially when it comes to our division,” Zimmerman said. “The talent is here and just like any other small school, it ebbs and flows. We just have to get them to work, buy in and believe. I don’t believe in fearing another jersey. I’ve never prepared like that in my life. Coach Erickson never taught me to be that way. You have to train to be the best.”
Zimmerman has already met some of his players since being hired.
“At the tail end of the school year, I was driving home from work in Ashwaubenon and coming here to catch up with these guys at a team meeting and gauge where their temperament is at,” he said. “I’ve been in the weight room as much as I can and trying to get these guys in there. They’ll get the real dose on contact days as far as where this ship is going to go from here.
“A respect of all and a fear of none,” he said. “That’s the style of football that I’m hoping to bring to Weyauwega-Fremont.”
Zimmerman is looking forward to his head coaching debut in less than a month.
“It’s a very prideful community and I love coming back to a small town,” he said. “This is a family here. There truly is nothing better than walking out on that field on a Friday night.
“People that have been gone for 20 years talk about those Friday nights,” he added. “That’s something I want to give these kids. I want them to be able to come back in 20 years and talk about the time they had and the lessons they learned. I think it’s time for these guys to have that.”