Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 37
 
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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NATIVE LEGEND: New Jersey native Matt Zimmerman, center, smiles as he poses along with fellow Princeton University football tri-captains Jordan Culbreath, left, and Steven Cody at the program’s recent media day. Senior fullback Zimmerman and the Tigers kick off their 2010 campaign when they play at Lehigh on September 18.

N.J. Native Zimmerman Living Out Dream Serving as Princeton Football Tri-Captain

Bill Alden

Growing up in northern Jersey, Matt Zimmerman dreamed of someday competing for Princeton University.

“From the time I was a little kid I always wanted to go to Princeton,” said Zimmerman, a native of Mountainside.

After lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and track at Gov. Livingston High, Zimmerman got that chance, coming to PU in 2007 and joining the Tiger football team.

The 6’0, 220-pound Zimmerman became the starting fullback for the Tigers as a sophomore and comes into this fall as one of the team’s captains along with fellow seniors Steven Cody and Jordan Culbreath.

As he lives out the final stages of his childhood dream, Zimmerman isn’t taking anything for granted.

“The fact that I have gotten this opportunity to be able to play here has truly been a blessing,” said Zimmerman, whose final campaign with the Tigers kicks off this Saturday when Princeton plays at Lehigh.

Zimmerman feels doubly blessed to be one of the Princeton captains. “That was very special that my teammates would view me as a leader and that is something I have taken very seriously,” asserted Zimmerman.

“I am trying to do the absolute best job I can. I think I am naturally a pretty energetic person and that’s what a lot of my teammates enjoy about me.”

There is a renewed energy around the program with the arrival of head coach Bob Surace, who has transformed the face of the staff by bringing in seven new assistants.

“There is always going to be an adjustment but I think for all intents and purpose, it went very smoothly,” said Zimmerman.

“I think it was attributable to the fact that coach Surace went here. He is an alumnus so he is familiar with the load of being a student-athlete here. In the first conversation I had with him in December, he said ‘I am looking to be successful, we are coming here to win.’ That was the most refreshing thing to hear. You talk to any of the coaches on our staff and you get the impression right away that they are all winners and they want to win.”

As the Tigers have gone through preseason camp in preparation for the clash against Lehigh, Zimmerman senses a winning attitude around the team.

“From the first couple of practices, we really hit the ground running,” said Zimmerman.

“We all had a great spring and there wasn’t that much of a learning period in that sense. We didn’t have to get the guys lined up in the first few practices. It was really fun to see that all of our hard work has paid off.”

The Tigers have gotten a huge lift this summer as star running back Culbreath is lining up with the team after missing most of last season battling aplastic anemia.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard he was coming back; I didn’t care what he did on the football field,” said Zimmerman.

“Jordan is one of my best friends on and off the field. He is a role model and an inspiration to me; just hearing that he is back with us was such a heartwarming experience for me. Physically he looks good; I have been impressed. He is a warrior; he always wants to be out there.”

When it comes to his role in the Princeton offense, Zimmerman is prepared to do whatever the coaches want from him.

“We are doing a lot of different things with our offense; I describe it as a multiple offense,” said Zimmerman, who rushed for 73 yards and had 14 receptions in 2008 before gaining 141 yards rushing and making 23 catches last fall.

“I will certainly have opportunities and whatever comes my way I will just try to make the most of it. I am excited for the upcoming season; we have been working very hard.”

Zimmerman knows that the Tigers face a hard task in opening their season by battling 1-1 Lehigh. “They are going to have two games under their belt so that is going to be an advantage for them but right now we are focusing on us,” said Zimmerman.

“This camp has been about us and making Princeton the best team we can be and I think we have been doing a great job of that. Our coaching staff has been doing a great job getting us ready.”

And if Princeton can produce a championship season this fall, Zimmerman will be living out another dream.

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