Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer changed the life of a young soldier. A military mother made a 705-mile trek from Cincinnati to thank the coach for saving her son's life.
Updated: August 9th, 2016 4:00pm
Updated: August 9th, 2016 4:00pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
The scorching hot sun radiated off the Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp practice fields.
Andrew, a Sergeant in the United States Army had returned in July from serving a twelve-month tour in Afghanistan. Upon his return, acclimating to civilian life in the states was an adjustment for the young soldier who just returned from the battle fields. It was often hard for Andrew to establish a sense of normalcy back home. His mom, Luann, was searching for a way to help him return to civilian life. She knew his passion for football might be the perfect prescription for remembering happy times. That August, Luann decided to bring her son to a Bengals training camp practice.
Luann watched her son, Andrew, view a practice for his favorite NFL team – the Cincinnati Bengals. Positioned near the sidelines -- after several hours of play and several bottles of water -- Luann was drawn to a coach standing on the edge of the field with his arms folded. The man was wearing a black long sleeve shirt and was dressed head-to-toe in dark clothing. He had not taken a single drink of water since they had arrived. She was curious who the coach was and why he was wearing a black long sleeve shirt. More importantly, she was curious why he had not taken a single drink of water in the excruciating 90-degree heat.
She turned to her son to ask the name of the coach standing in front of them.
Andrew’s eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “That’s Mike Zimmer -- the best defensive coordinator in the entire NFL!”
Luann said that after Andrew saw Mike Zimmer on that day, and raved on and on about him for several minutes, she saw a change in him. From that point on, his life changed forever. Simply seeing one of his football coaching idols brightened his day and marked the start of Andrew reestablishing his life as a civilian.
A teary eyed Luann said, “He saved my son’s life.”
Luann sent Mike Zimmer a letter to thank him for being someone who can have such an impact on so many people. After receiving the note, Zimmer’s assistant in Minnesota contacted Luann to receive their address. A short time later, Zimmer sent an autographed picture and hat to Andrew.
When Mike Zimmer left Cincinnati at the end of the 2013 season, nobody was more upset than Andrew. However, he was pleased to see Zimmer land the NFL head coaching job he had deserved for a very long time.
“Andrew said of all the people in the NFL, [Zimmer] deserved it,” Luann explained.
When Luann saw the More Than Words campaign on a local TV station, she went to the internet. She was so touched to see Mike continuing to help others. She figured the Fan HQ autograph signing in Eden Prairie, MN would be the perfect way to thank Mike Zimmer for the impact he made on her son. In late July, Luann decided to make the 705-mile trek to the Twin Cities from Cincinnati for the opportunity to thank Zimmer in person. She said this was the least she could do to show her appreciation for the life-changing impact Mike had on her son.
Luann wanted to bring Andrew to meet Coach Zimmer, but at the time, he was living a long-time dream to walk the 2,659-mile Pacific Crest trail with an Army friend. Andrew had walked over 210 miles on the trek before the injuries he sustained in Afghanistan proved to be too much and he had to leave the trail. His friend continued the journey, racking up over 1,350 miles. Luann decided she would represent her son and fly to the Twin Cities to thank Mike personally.
At the signing, Luann had Mike sign a football and thanked him for his kind gesture. Mike appreciated her making the trip and was glad he could help her son.
Zimmer might have left Cincinnati, but Andrew and Luann now have a favorite team in the NFC – Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. Each week, they follow the games and support their favorite coach.
“Since they never play the Bengals, we root for the Vikings when they aren’t playing them,” Luann Schirmer smiled.
When the Vikings travel to Cincinnati for joint practices and a preseason game on Wednesday, Luann isn’t sure who Andrew will share an allegiance with. However, she has a hunch it could be the Vikings.
“Preseason really doesn’t count,” she laughed.
The Mike Zimmer Foundation is helping others reach their goals and dreams in the local Twin Cities community.
A mom and son will certainly never forget the moment Mike Zimmer changed their lives. They are proud to see the Mike Zimmer Foundation will continue to help other families and kids who may need a boost.
A few years ago, Luann experienced this first-hand when Zimmer’s presence changed the life of her son; a returning member of the military.
Luann had one message to share with Mike.
She said, “It is nice that you are great coach, but you are more than just a great coach -- you change people’s lives.”
To donate to the More Than Words campaign in support of the Mike Zimmer Foundation, follow this link. The fundraising ends at midnight, so act quickly!