Congratulations to Rob Zimmerman of Dewitt on being named National Federation of State High School Associations 2021 Coach of the year
By DOUG DONNELLY
Rob Zimmerman, who has been a highly successful football coach in the State of Michigan for nearly three decades, has been named the National Federation of State High School Association’s 2020-21 national football coach of the year.
In 2020, Zimmerman led the DeWitt Panthers to the Division 3 state championship. This past season, DeWitt lost to nationally ranked Detroit Martin Luther King in the Division 3 state title game.
“It’s a great honor and humbling,” said Zimmerman. “It’s another compliment to the great people and our kids that have come through our program.”
The NFHS receives nominations from its member state associations, such as the Michigan High School Coaches Association. The state association then contacts the potential state award recipients to complete a coach profile form that requests information regarding the coach’s record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy. To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.
Twenty-three high school coaches from across the country in various sports have been selected as 2020-21 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
DeWitt’s sensational 2020-21 season brought a slew of coach-of-the-year (COY) honors for Zimmerman – 10 total – including the USA Today State of Michigan Coach of the Year, Detroit Lions Coach of the Year, three different state COY awards from the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) and a runner-up finish for the NFL Don Shula National Coach of the Year award.
Counting his 2020 accolade, Zimmerman has been named MHSFCA regional COY 14 times since 2000 and won the Lansing State Journal “Coach of the Decade” distinction for the 2000s.
Zimmerman was head coach for three years at Cedar Springs before moving to DeWitt, where he has been the past 23 seasons.
He said he never turns down a chance to learn more about the game.
“I think I’ve tried to stay one step ahead of other teams with schemes and things I pick up,” he said. “I would go to college practices and study what other coaches are doing. It’s kind of become a hobby of mine. You never stop learning. You always end up with something.”
He has turned DeWitt football into one of the most prominent programs in the state with 19 conference championships in his 23 seasons at DHS – including the past 16 in a row – 14 district championships and 12 regional championships. His teams have performed exceptionally well in the classroom, too, receiving 1st team academic all-state honors in each of the past nine seasons.
Zimmerman is an MHSFCA member and was inducted into the coaches association Hall of Fame in 2016.
He said he sees the award as not one that is achieved over one or two seasons, but a career.
“It’s a reflection of so many things, such as all of the great people I’ve got to work with over the years and the kids,” Zimmerman said. “There are a lot of guys who have been with me for a long time. It’s a credit to everyone.”