Combine a successful college football career with a strong combine performance and you have a surefire NFL Draft selection.
Take away half the equation and you are left with a draft hopeful, a player with something left to prove.
Ty Zimmerman hopes he proved enough during his four years at Kansas State to hear his name called during the late rounds of this weekend’s draft, but he also understands that may not be enough. Unlike many other draft hopefuls, Zimmerman didn’t get the chance to validate his college success – 257 tackles, 13 interceptions and four all-conference selections – at an all-star game, the NFL combine or even K-State’s regularly scheduled pro day. Zimmerman missed out on all three while recovering from shoulder surgery, which was needed to repair a torn labrum he suffered midway through his senior season.
“Different people have told me the biggest thing they look at is film, and I hope that’s true,” Zimmerman said. “I have that going for me. I played a lot during my four years and they can see all of it. They can see the progression and the improvement that I have made over the last few years. Hopefully I catch somebody’s eye.”
Those who study Zimmerman’s college career will like what they see. The Junction City native came to K-State as a quarterback, but adjusted to defense so effortlessly that he started as a freshman. He grew into the leader of K-State’s secondary, calling out plays and receiving national recognition as an upperclassman. He was athletic, fundamentally sound and always in position.
He also helped the Wildcats play in four straight bowl games and win a Big 12 title.
Injuries were the only thing that held him back. He missed games with a fractured fibula as a junior and as a senior, and shoulder surgery sidelined him in January.
Still, he was shocked when he didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine. He knew he was going to miss out on the chance to boost his draft stock by running and lifting in a controlled environment in front of scouts, but he thought he could impress them in the interview room.
“I was a little bummed at first,” Zimmerman said. “I thought there was a good possibility I would get an invite even though I had the injury. I would have liked to have gone and talked to the coaches and do interviews. I couldn’t do any of the all-star games. As soon as I got back from the bowl game, I had surgery. That maybe had a little bit to do with it (the combine snub). But I just put it behind me.”
Zimmerman did that by working with his agent, J.I. Halsell of Priority Sports and Entertainment, to attract interest from a handful of teams and to arrange for a second pro day at K-State’s campus once he was healthy. Zimmerman and former K-State left tackle Cornelius Lucas both worked out in front of scouts last week in Manhattan.
The crowd wasn’t as big as K-State’s normally scheduled pro day, but it served its purpose.
“I had a good pro day,” Zimmerman said. “I did what I wanted to do.”
Zimmerman visited the Cincinnati Bengals before his pro day, and said he has heard from a few teams since. Most mock drafts project Zimmerman to be selected in the final rounds or to catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent.
Either scenario is satisfactory for Zimmerman. Maybe he did enough at K-State to warrant a draft pick. Maybe he needed a strong combine performance, too. One thing is for sure, when he gets another opportunity to prove himself, he plans to take advantage of it.
“Playing in the NFL is every kids dream,” Zimmerman said. “I never set a goal to do that until now, though. My goal was to win state in high school. Then I wanted to play at the highest level in college. I never looked ahead at K-State. My whole senior year I was focused on winning the next game. The success we had has opened a lot of doors for me. I would love to hear my name called, but if it doesn’t happen I will have other options.”