We did not have to look far to track down this former Bison two-sport athlete. Recently, Kole Zimmerman has stepped out of the bright lights of the FargoDome and into the coaching ranks of the FM RedHawks.Photography by NDSU Athletics and Melody Neer By Joe Kerlin
Kole Zimmerman has always been a quick learner. It’s likely that the former two-sport star at NDSU is making an immediate impact in the baseball coaching world because of it. Zimmerman, or “Zim” as his buddies, teammates and players know him by, has always been a student of the game along with being quite the athlete himself.
Zim grew-up in the town of Windom, Minnesota located about an hour and a half drive from Sioux Falls. Zim graduated from Windom Area High School back in 2002 where he excelled on both the gridiron and the baseball diamond. Wanting to play both sports in college, Zim decided to bring his talents to Fargo.
“I decided I was going to play both sports,” Zim said. “I had come-up and they were like well I don’t know, we are a football school, the baseball team is okay – we aren’t gonna lie – but you know if that’s how we are going to get you here then go ahead and play both.”
In his freshman year, Zim played for Bob Babich during his final season on the sidelines for the Bison. Zim also grew a great relationship with then linebacker coach Gus Bradley who is now entering his first season as head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two were so close that when the NFL came knocking on Bradley’s door, he asked for Zim’s advice if he should take the job in Tampa or not.
“He was like, ‘what do you think I should I do? Can I take this?’” Zim says he told him, “Coach, you gotta go. You and I both know you want to be in the NFL.”
Zim played at the FargoDome for four years as a member of the football team from ’02 – ’05. He battled through two major knee injuries and played in a total of 35 games for the Bison.
Injuries also hampered Zim on the baseball field where he played from ’04 – ’08. Zim was a valuable asset to the team in his four years doing a little bit of everything from playing the outfield, to first base and even saw some time behind the plate as a catcher.
After the ’08 season, the FM RedHawks signed Zim to a contract and was on the team for four seasons.
“He applies himself very well in any capacity you put him in as a player,” said Doug Simunic, Zim’s coach when he played for the Redhawks. “He didn’t do anything great behind the plate, but he had the knowledge to get the pitcher through the game.”
Complementing his knowledge of the game, Zim was also a great student at NDSU where he double majored in history and anthropology and received his Master’s in history.
“I wanted to do well in school just so it wasn’t such a hassle. If you got a 3.5 you got out of study tables in your first semester and it just made everything easier,” Zim said. “I tell my kids now college is basically how much effort you want to put into it. If you show up and put the effort in you’ll pass and you can do as good as you want to do.”
Juggling football, baseball and school has sharpened Zim’s time management skills and the hard work has helped him become the coach he is today.
Zim’s take on his former coaches:
Coach Bob Babich (Football) —”Firey, intense.”
Coach Gus Bradley (Football) — “Tireless, football 24/7.”
Coach Craig Bohl (Football) — “Intimidating, great football mind.”
Coach Mitch McLeod (Baseball) — “Hitting guru.”
Coach Tod Brown (Baseball) — “Left-handed pitcher, they’re a little unique in everything they do.”
Coach Doug Simunic (Baseball) — “Unbelievable, one of most unique people I have ever met.”
“It’s certainly helped him in his development because he picks up on stuff quick and he’s a quick learner,” Simunic said.
Simunic has also been impressed with Zim’s ability to get through to the players and become an effective coach at his age.
“You know he has mixed all those coaching acquaintances that he has made in the past and he has been able to kind of manufacture results,” said Simunic. “He’s a little bit of everything.”
When asked about his future in coaching, Zim wasn’t sure. He says he has been enjoying it and it keeps him close to the game. Zim hopes to go back to school to receive his doctorate, but for now it will have to wait.
When asked about it, Zim simply responded, “I might at some point but teaching college-kids history isn’t as rewarding to me as baseball.”