The PFWA’s Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL. The award is named for Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer.
Zimmerman’s writing career was cut short by a series of strokes in November 2008 that left him unable to speak, read and write. But his impact on the writing and football industries was profound. He’s widely considered one of the best football writers of all time, and his 1970 “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” and revised 1984 “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” are textbooks to this day for young football writers trying to learn the game and trying to learn to write about the game.
As a 15-year-old, Zimmerman sparred with Ernest Hemingway in a Manhattan gym. He sustained four broken noses as an offensive lineman in high school (Horace Mann High in the Bronx, N.Y.), at two colleges (Stanford and Columbia) and for his Army team (the Western Area Command Rhinos, in Germany). He also played semi-professionally in New Jersey for the Paterson Pioneers and the Morristown Colonials.
Before joining SI in 1979, Zimmerman worked for the New York Journal-American and the New York World-Telegram & Sun, and he spent 13 years at the New York Post, where he covered pro football and three Olympic Games. He was one of the few journalists to get close to the Israeli compound during the 1972 hostage-taking in Munich; he bucked two lines of security guards and took a rifle butt to the head.
He was the president of the Pro Football Writers Association during the 1982 season.
Zimmerman was still writing multiple columns a week for the magazine and its website, SI.com, until he suffered his strokes.
He lives in West Caldwell, N.J., and is cared for by his loving wife, Linda.
PAUL “DR. Z” ZIMMERMAN AWARD WINNERS (For lifetime achievement as an NFL assistant coach):
2014 – Jim Johnson, Howard Mudd, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese
2015 – Dick LeBeau, Tom Moore and Dante Scarnecchia
2016 – Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips
2017 – Bud Carson