This week’s guest recently spearheaded a defensive unit which went from giving up 51 points per a game in district play to only giving up 16 points per a game in the final four games which were all wins and helped McKinney reached the playoffs for the third consecutive season. After getting the defense to continue playing lights out in the playoffs which led to McKinney winning their first playoff game in 26-years, he can finally sit back and reflect on the magic turnaround he was a part of.
Please relax and enjoy the McKinney Courier-Gazette’s sports editor Kendrick E. Johnson’s Sunday Spotlight Conversation with McKinney’s talented defensive coordinator Zack Zimmermann.
Gives some insight into how you turned a unit which was giving up 50 plus points a game into one giving up 16 points a game and leading an improbable charge into the playoffs?
Zimmermann: All credit needs to be given to my coaching staff and most of all, the kids. Those guys never wavered throughout the year which is ultimately what allowed us to turn this thing around in my opinion.
Everyone stuck together, continued to trust in the process, and remained confident that we could do some really good things defensively. We saw on film that there were a bunch of little things that were holding us back from being great and playing at a high level, but also saw flashes of what we could be as a defensive unit when everything operated the way it should.
The most encouraging part was all those little things were easily correctible and once they were corrected, you saw what we could be as a defensive unit when we were able to consistently play at a high level.
Do you remember a game or play when you realized your defensive unit could reach its potential and play at the level y’all ended the season playing at?
Zimmermann: The pivotal moment for us as a defensive unit came during the fifth play of the Plano West game when our outside linebacker, Datron Brooks, intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to start the game.
It was a huge confidence booster and set the tone for the rest of that game and every game thereafter. We had talked all week about when all 11 guys do their job good things happen and that play certainly reinforced that message.
How does it feel to be a part of the only McKinney coaching staff which has beaten crosstown rival Boyd twice?
Zimmermann: It’s an incredible feeling! Coming in two years ago I remember hearing about the rivalry, but I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of it all.
I knew the history but had no idea about all the pageantry and passion from students and fans that went along with the game. The impact that win has on the entire student body, staff, and community is really unique and I’m lucky to have been a part of it the past two seasons.
The playoff implications tied to those games was just icing on the cake.
What does being a McKinney Lion mean to you and how special is it be a part of the team to end the 26-year winless playoff drought?
Zimmermann: Being a part of Lion Nation means everything to me and my family. This is an incredible place filled with incredible people and it starts at the top with our principal, Alan Arbabi.
The support we have gotten from him, his fellow administrators and the teaching staff since I’ve arrived on campus is unparalleled. They are truly the backbone of our football program, and I’m proud that we were able to repay their efforts with the school’s first playoff win in 26 years.
Getting a gold ball was a goal that we had established as a team last offseason and to see it come to fruition was an amazing experience.
How has being a part of Marcus Shavers coaching staffs made you a better coach?
Zimmermann: Being with Coach Shavers for four years now I can confidently say that he is the best coach I know at coaching coaches. He knows how to get the best out of his staff each and every year and I think that is evidenced by the success he’s had as a head coach thus far in his career.
I’ve been able to learn so much and grow on a personal and professional level under his leadership and am extremely blessed to be able to work with him on a daily basis.
What will you remember the most about this up and down season when you look back at it years from now?
Zimmermann: I’ll remember all of it. The excitement that fall camp brings every year. The early adversity we faced through the first three games of district play. The way we responded to that adversity the last four games of district play. Making the playoffs in dramatic fashion.
But ultimately it will be the faces of our players after winning the school’s first playoff game in 26 years, the relationships that were built throughout the year, and the pride I have in being a McKinney Lion and a part of Lion Nation that I’ll remember most.
Who is your coaching mentor and how has their influence helped you get to this level of coaching in your career?
Zimmermann: I have been fortunate enough to be around many great coaches throughout my career that I would consider mentors and have aided in my development as a coach. I owe Coach Kevin Almlie, now defensive coordinator at the City College of San Francisco, for my start in coaching.
He was a huge influence while coaching at Santa Barbara City College, taking me under his wing and teaching me about scheme and the specifics of defensive back play. Coach Joe Cluley, now head coach at Lubbock Estacado, has also been a huge influence on me as a coach and someone I have leaned on heavily since becoming the Defensive Coordinator at McKinney High School.
Both of these men, along with countless others, have shaped who I’ve become as a coach today and for that I am eternally grateful.
Where do you see yourself at in your coaching career five years from now and when do you plan on becoming a head coach?
Zimmermann: Right now, my focus is on being the best defensive coordinator I can possibly be for the McKinney Lions. I strive to improve personally and professionally every year with the expectation that our defense improves year in and year out and contributes to the further success of our football program. Ultimately, I do aspire to be a head coach and run a successful program of my own one day should the opportunity present itself. Until then, I will continue to contribute to the success of McKinney High on and off the field.