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Morning Briefing

A Little Lesson for a Big Man

September 03, 1986

To see Jeff Zimmerman of the University of Florida, it's not surprising to learn that he has always been a lineman: 6-foot-4 and 35-inch thighs, 190 pounds by the seventh grade, 270 pounds by his senior year in high school.

He was declared too heavy for football until the eighth grade, so he wrestled and played basketball. When Zimmerman did get his chance to play football in junior high, he got permission once to play fullback.

"I wasn't real heavy and I was pretty fast," he told Mark Johnson of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "I took the ball and was running up the middle, and there was this big old pileup. I just hurdled it. I was in mid-flight when a linebacker hit me, and I did a flip and landed on my back.

"I said, 'That's it for me.' "

Add Zimmerman: How big is he? Depends when you weigh him.

He was up to 333 a few months ago, got down to 315 after a monitored fruit-and-vegetable diet in the summer and back up to 325 during the Gators' first week of fall practice.

The story goes that Charley Pell, then the Florida coach, was asked if he had ever seen such a large player move so fast.

"I've never seen a player that big move at all," he replied.

A change of scenery: "That was the lousiest defensive performance in the second half I think I've ever seen any football team give. They completely quit. I don't know whether there's anybody on that defense at all that really cares whether they play football or not. But I'll tell you this--it won't be hard to cut 'em."

Believe it or not, that did not come from Philadelphia Eagle Coach Buddy Ryan, who seems to have cornered the market in criticizing his own team in recent weeks. Green Bay's Forrest Gregg gets credit for that one, in the wake of the Packers' 34-12 exhibition loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Steve Jacobson of Newsday, on the thought of Don Sutton, a 300-game winner, and Dave Kingman, a home run hitter, both making the Hall of Fame:

"Comparison is made of Sutton with Dave Kingman, who has a chance to reach 500 home runs, and nobody who ever hit 500 home runs has been shut out of the Hall of Fame. That's a naive comparison. Kingman doesn't deserve it because he didn't help his teams win. He's played bit parts for only two division winners and he was traded, sold or released eight times in the prime of life. Teams wanted to be rid of him.

"Sutton was the foundation of good Dodger pitching staffs from 1966 to 1980. They built around him and he helped take them to four World Series. He also took Milwaukee to one, which is significant."

Trivia Time: Now that Roger Clemens has done it, who was the last Boston Red Sox pitcher to win 20 games in a season? (Answer below)

Doing what he does best: Butch Johnson, a former wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, is working for the ABC affiliate in Denver these days. Recently, when the Rams faced the Broncos, he got a chance to audition for a job as color commentator for NBC.

"It shouldn't be too tough," Johnson told Bob Van Winkle of the Denver Post. "You just run your mouth and I'm pretty good at that."

Inmate humor: Running back Ron Springs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to camp last week after paying a $200 fine from a two-year-old assault case, walked to his locker and found that teammates had attached vertical strips of adhesive tape in front of the cubical. The prison-bar look was aided with a piece of legal paper tacked overhead with "Convict" scrawled on it.

Fifteen years ago Tuesday: A 200-foot fly ball by Cesar Cedeno of the Houston Astros fell for an inside-the-park grand slam--against the Dodgers.

Second baseman Jim Lefebvre and right fielder Bill Buckner of the Dodgers collided on the play. The hit led the Astros to a 9-3 win.

Trivia answer: Dennis Eckersley, now with the Chicago Cubs, went 20-8 in 1978.

Quotebook

Notre Dame football Coach Lou Holtz, on refusing to make promises with a schedule that includes four top-20 teams this season: "The last time I made a prediction, I was making my fifth putt on the green."

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