We’ve already heard from some of the top safeties in this year’s draft class, like Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Stanford’s Ed Reynolds, but today, we hear from another highly talented safety that brings his own unique perspective as a former quarterback to the position, Kansas State’s Ty Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was a four-year starter at free safety for the Wildcats, recording 13 interceptions, two pick-sixes, 24 passes defensed and 257 tackles. The Kansas native earned second-team All American honors in 2012 for his impressive five-interception, 50-tackle junior campaign.
Zimmerman is an underrated safety prospect heading into the draft and could be a great pickup for a team looking for a savvy, team-first player with excellent range in coverage. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Zimmerman also pairs tremendous size for the position with his natural leadership qualities on the field.
The former college team captain has plenty to offer at the safety position at the next level, and a team like the Packers could definitely target the Kansas State prospect on draft day.
To learn more about Zimmerman’s game, I reached out to him and here is what he had to say about the kind of player he is and how he would feel about playing in Green Bay.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and why did you choose to play at Kansas State?
TZ: I grew up in Junction City, Kansas, which is about 20 miles west of Manhattan. Kansas State was really the only D1 School to offer me a scholarship, and the fact that it’s so close to home helped in my decision to go there.
Q. What led you to play the safety position?
TZ: I actually played quarterback throughout high school and started there my first spring at KSU. The defensive backs coach asked if I would switch to safety during spring ball, so I did and played it all four years there.
Q. Describe your style of play. Are you a safety that likes to play up in the box and be physical against the run, or are you a ball hawk that likes to roam the field?
TZ: My dad is a football coach at Junction City, and growing up around the game has definitely helped me throughout my career. Because of that I would describe my play as heady. I may not “wow” people with my physical abilities, but I’ve always been a student of the game and I feel that my preparation each week on the mental side of the game allows me to help my team be successful.
I’ve always believed that safeties can be involved in the run game no matter what coverage you are in, as long as you have the right eye control and awareness. I like playing in the box where I can get more action, but if I could choose, I’d probably be a deep roamer because I like seeing the whole field, reading the quarterback, and being able to get a good break on the ball.
Q. What are the strengths of your game?
TZ: Again, I’d say I have a pretty good knowledge of the game. I think that my four years of experience at KSU have allowed me to have a better understanding of defensive schemes and know where everyone is going to be on the field.
Q. What part of your game would you like to improve going into the draft?
TZ: As for improvements to be made, I’ve always believed that as a player you must constantly improve because the minute you stop getting better you start hurting your team. I didn’t play any defense before KSU, so I still feel fairly new to the position. I’m always trying to improve my angles on tackles, as well as leverage in man-to-man situations because as a safety that’s something you always encounter on each play.
Q. This year’s safety class is a talented bunch. What makes you unique at the position, and what can you do to separate yourself from the pack?
TZ: I think my experience growing up as a coach’s son, along with my experience here at KSU working with a great DB coach and defensive coordinator with NFL experience, and being around a great group of guys over the last four years have all taught me so much about the game and the right way to play it. I’ve always had a passion for this game and have taken the mindset of trying to help my team win in any way that I can.
I know it’s a talented bunch, and I’m honored to be a part of it. For me, my work ethic is what I take pride in. I know I will be a guy that comes to the field and film room each day wanting to improve myself and the team.
Q. Are there any NFL safeties you study or try to model your game after? Any you draw comparisons to or inspired you to play the position?
TZ: Growing up as a quarterback I always paid attention to quarterbacks on college teams and in the NFL. When I switched to safety I started looking at other safeties, and one guy that caught my attention the last couple of years is Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame and now with the Vikings. He seems like very instinctive player that has great knowledge of the game. He also has great ball skills and he’s a fundamental tackler, and all of those things are skills that I’ve tried to develop over these last four years at safety.
Q. Safety is a major need for the Packers going into the draft. What could you bring to their defense and secondary if they drafted you?
TZ: I think the biggest thing is an unselfish attitude and a willingness to help them be successful in any way that I can. I feel that I have the ability to pick up schemes quick and understand what the coaches expect from their players, and I know that my work ethic will help me consistently show up week in and week out, willing to get myself better, and as a result, the team better.
Q. How would you feel about playing in Green Bay? Do you know much about the team, fanbase, or city?
TZ: There’s so much history in Green Bay with the Lombardi trophy, and you easily see on game days how much pride that the Packer fans have for their team. In some ways it reminds me of the fans that I was able to play for here at KSU: showing up early, loud the whole game, and creating a tremendous home field advantage.
I watched their Super Bowl run a few years ago, and I know they consistently compete for championships, which is something I want to be a part of. I also really enjoy watching Jordy Nelson, who was a KSU grad and has created a very successful career for himself in Green Bay.
Q. When you’re drafted, what will be your mindset arriving to your new team, playing in the NFL, and trying to carve out your spot on the roster?
TZ: Because it’s a transition into a new environment and a new daily routine, I think you have to have an open-mind about everything and be willing to adjust to new schemes, a new coaching staff, new group of teammates, etc. One of the things that I’ve learned from being on some successful teams at KSU is that what you do together off the field is vital to your chances of success.
Q. What kind of teammate would you be?
TZ: My teammates will be able to know that I will be a positive guy around the locker room, and one who comes to work everyday trying to help our team get better. I think also with that new transition you have to learn things from the veterans who have been doing it the right way year after year.
Q. Who have been the most influential people in your life?
TZ: First and foremost my faith in God, which has helped me realize that no matter what opportunity that I am given in life, I want to use it to make a positive impact in other people’s lives. Also, my mom and dad. My mom runs her own realtor business, and my dad is a teacher and coach. Both of them work extremely hard at what they do and have instilled in me the values that I hold dear to me today. I know that without them there is no way I would be where I am at today.
Q. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?
TZ: I like being outdoors, so when I do get free time away from football and school I try to do some hunting and fishing back in Junction. I don’t get a huge thrill out of the shooting or catching, but being out in the woods or on the water away from everything is a good time to me. I also enjoy watching my little brother and sister compete in their sporting events. Other than that, I try to take advantage of the times when I can kick back, relax, and hangout with my family.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?
TZ: I’m engaged to be married to my high school sweetheart this summer in July!
Career college stats
• 2013 – 75 tackles, 3 TFL, FF, 4 PBUs, 3 INT, and 2 INT returned for TDs
• 2012 – 50 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 PBUs, and 5 INT
• 2011 – 58 tackles, TFL, 5 PBUs, and 2 INT
• 2010 – 74 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 PBUs, and 3 INT
Film on Ty Zimmerman
Ty Zimmerman against West Virginia (2012): 5 tackles and an INT
Ty Zimmerman against Oklahoma (2012): 3 tackles, 2 PBUs, and an INT