Greenville's Justin Zimmer taking advantage of playing time with Buffalo Bills

Zimmer breaking in after years on practice squads
Justin Zimmer on the field for the Buffalo Bills
Posted at 11:53 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 11:53:11-05

BUFFALO, NY — Justin Zimmer was a standout at Greenville High School with 108 tackles and four interceptions in his senior season to help lead the Yellow Jackets to a 9-2 record in 2010.

"Greenville will always be home, I went K through 12 there," Zimmer smiled.

Zimmer then went on to Ferris State University where he solidified himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the country as a two-time All-American and three-time first-team All-GLIAC performer.

Now, after four years of bouncing around on NFL practice squads and the Canadian Football League, he's making a name for himself with the Buffalo Bills.

"My wife has always made fun of me because for the first few years in the NFL, people would ask what I do for a living," Zimmer explained, "I was always reluctant to tell them because I played, but I didn't really play in the NFL, I practiced."

On Sunday, in the game against the New England Patriots, Zimmer played in his fourth game of the season and had a game sealing forced fumble in the final minute to give the Bills the win.

Justin Zimmer chases Cam Newton during Sunday's game against New England
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) rushes past Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Justin Zimmer (61) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

"It was a great moment," Zimmer smiled, "it took me a while to realize how good of a play it was and what I did. Everybody was reaching out to me and saying, 'Great play' and stuff like that, but they say 24-hour rule, the game is over now, we're onto to Seattle."

Despite that play and his playing time this season, Zimmer is still as humble as they come and remains hesitant to tell strangers what he does for a living.

"I still like to keep it to myself, I don't like people treating me differently just because I'm good at a sport," said Zimmer, "it's no different than being good at any other job."

Justin Zimmer chases down Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, right, avoids pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Justin Zimmer during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

But Zimmer's story hasn't been easy, he admits it was extremely challenging bouncing around for the past few years, just hoping for an opportunity to stick in the NFL.

"I got cut six times," he said, "that's six times being told you're not good enough to play. That's hard."

He says without his family, friends, and support system that he wouldn't have gotten through the emotional toll of being cut over and over.

"It just goes back to the support system I have, I've always known people are behind me, no matter if I'm playing games on Sundays or cut."

From Greenville, to Big Rapids, to NFL Sundays, Zimmer wants kids in West Michigan to understand they too, can make their dreams a reality.

"Don't worry about where you are or where you come from," said Zimmer, "just worry about making yourself a better player and you should be able to make it."

Justin Zimmer in high school at Greenville

The (6-2) Bills will host the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at 1 PM.