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O'HARA: Local DT prospect Justin Zimmer playing the waiting game

Justin Zimmer has reached a point where he can look ahead to the draft after a long offseason workout program that was designed to get him recognized as a legitimate prospect.

Zimmer won't rest on any laurels he may have accumulated in catching the eyes of NFL personnel with the strength, quickness and agility he demonstrated in his workouts.

"At this point, there's nothing I can do," Zimmer said. "It kind of becomes a waiting game, and making sure I stay in shape and get better at my position."

Zimmer was speaking in a telephone interview from McKinney, Texas, where he began training shortly after the first of the year at the Michael Johnson Performance facility after ending his career at Ferris State.

Zimmer plans to wait out the remaining days before the draft April 28-30 at his family's west Michigan home in Greenville, and stay ready for any visits he might be called to make by teams wanting personal pre-draft interviews.

Regardless of what happens – and there's no guarantee that he will get drafted -- Zimmer can take satisfaction knowing that he came through with two strong performances for the NFL scouts.

Zimmer first attracted notice at a regional combine in Houston in February, and he backed it up with similarly strong numbers at a Pro Day in Ann Arbor on March 18.

"I felt like I performed well," Zimmer said. "I've shown what I can do physically. It's been like a grind. I prepped for the regional combine (in Houston). As soon as I did that, I knew I had to improve my scores. Coming to my Pro Day and not performing well is the last thing I wanted to do."

It has been a busy few months for Zimmer. He had a productive career at Ferris State, highlighted by a 2015 season that established him as one of the best defensive tackles at the Division II level.

As a fifth-year senior, Zimmer set a school record with 26 tackles for loss. That included 13 sacks, with a single-game high of 4.5 – also a school record – in a game against Michigan Tech.

Zimmer was a two-time Division II All-American and was nominated as a junior and senior for the Gene Upshaw Award as top lineman in Division II and the Cliff Harris Award as the top small-college defensive player overall.

Despite the honors, Zimmer was not one of the 300-plus players invited to the Combine workouts in Indianapolis in February.

Zimmer may have been out of Indy, but he did not remain out of sight of the scouts. He undertook an alternative plan with the assistance of agent Kevin Poston that began by immersing himself in the workouts at the Johnson Performance training center.

The first payoff was at the Houston regional combine in February.

At just under 6-3 and 303 pounds, Zimmer ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds, had a vertical jump of 33 inches and tested well in all of the agility drills. For his performance, he was dubbed "the state of Michigan's hidden secret" by, the official website of the NFL.

Next up was the Pro Day at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ferris State doesn't have an indoor practice facility, so NFL rules allowed Zimmer to participate in another Pro Day within his home state.

Zimmer gave another strong effort – with a bonus.

He ran the 40 twice, in times of 4.88 and 4.85 seconds. He had a 32-inch vertical jump, a standing broad jump of 9 feet, 9 inches and good times again in the agility drills.

The bonus: 44 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Legendary NFL scout Gil Brandt referred to Zimmer's bench press performance as "astonishing" in an overall "great workout." The bench-press high at the Combine was 34 reps by Christian Westerman of Arizona State, Brandt reported.

Zimmer wasn't awed by the trappings at Michigan's indoor facility. He looked like he fit in. He wanted to show consistency in the drills, and he did that.

"That was my goal – either to go up at each thing, or at least stay very close to it," Zimmer said. "If for some reason I went out and jumped three inches shorter in the vertical jump, that would be a red flag."

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