National Football Signing Day
By Daniel Dullum
As the deadline approached for college football’s national letter of intent signing day on Feb. 7, Ethan Zimmerman still had a decision to make.
At around 10:30 the night before, the Apache Junction 4A All-State defensive back chose Chadron State (Neb.) for his football future.
“Chadron State and Northern Arizona were the big contenders, and Ottawa (Surprise) was in there, but Chadron really stuck out to me,” Zimmerman said. “Chadron is definitely a solid program. They have a winning record and I’m excited to go play there.”
Zimmerman said he hasn’t visited the campus yet, but is “excited just to play in a different environment and play with people I don’t know.” He’ll be majoring in business.
Prospectors Coach Vance Miller said Chadron State “was new on my radar. Their scouts got in touch a couple of months ago looking for Ethan. I sent them film, they saw highlights online and really liked him. They thought very highly of him.
“They were looking more for a character reference. They said, ‘We can see his talent. We want to know what kind of guy he is.’ I told them he’s irreplaceable. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team with his leadership and skills.”
From there, Miller said, “We were just waiting for the offer to roll in and it finally did. We’re very excited.”
As for where the Eagles project Zimmerman, he said, “Anywhere. They see how versatile I am and I’m excited just to play football there. I’ll probably play safety, and in nickel packages.”
Zimmerman, a three-year starter at safety for the Prospectors, was also a first team 4A Black Canyon Region defensive and overall player of the year, and first team all-region defensive back, offensive utility player, kick returner and placekicker.
In 2016, Zimmerman was selected All-Black Canyon Region first team tight end.
When playing tight end as a junior, Zimmerman caught 10 passes for 264 yards (26.4 yards per reception) and five touchdowns. As a safety, he made 35 solo tackles, 57 total, along with three interceptions.
Zimmerman established an AJ record with 220 career total tackles, intercepted 11 passes, scored one defensive touchdown, and returned two kickoffs for TDs.
On offense, Zimmerman caught 21 career passes for 534 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On the similarities Zimmerman shares with recent Pro Football Hall of Fame selection Brian Urlacher (both had multiple offensive and defensive skill sets in high school; Urlacher did the same in college at New Mexico), Zimmerman said, “I can definitely see myself like that, just trying to keep myself as versatile as possible and make myself available.”
“Ethan is a multi-talented young man,” Miller said. “He can kick, he can throw, and from a quarterback standpoint, he’s smart and can read a field. He’s a safety, he can catch.
“I see him going in and working a lot at DB, but I think when they see how good his hands are, they might start using him in packages. At D-II, I think they’re more likely to use his skills for what they’re worth.”
“I was on the field constantly here,” Zimmerman said. “That definitely prepared me for the next level, and I want to thank Coach Miller for giving me the chance to be where I am today.”
Chadron State is an NCAA Division II college that plays in the Rocky Mountain Conference.
“This is the highest level signing we’ve had, so this is a huge feather in our hat,” Miller said. “He was looked at by several schools, and this is a good fit for him.
“It’s going to be tough for us to fill his shoes. I’m extremely proud of him and the leadership he’s shown since his freshman year. Hopefully, his example is one the kids here will want to follow.”
Photo above: Surrounded by coaches, teammates and family, Ethan Zimmerman of AJHS signs his letter of intent to play football at Chadron State. (Photos by Daniel Dullum)