Zimmerman: "We know this is going to definitely be the hardest game on our schedule this year, but a lot of guys are pretty pumped up for it."

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Little brother loves to tease his big brother about all those passing records he broke back home at Monroe High School.

Andrew Zimmerman hears it often from his little brother, Zach, who took over as Monroe’s starting quarterback four years ago when big brother went down with a season-ending knee injury during the 2014 season.

Now a quarterback at North Dakota, Andrew Zimmerman sees a role reversal at play for him and his teammates as they prepare for the paycheck game Saturday against No. 9 Washington at Husky Stadium. The Fighting Hawks, he hopes, can become the pesky little brother Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a lot like the big brother versus the little brother,” Zimmerman said in a phone interview this week from Grand Forks. “We know we’re not going to be able to manhandle (the Huskies) and just do whatever we want. But we can kick them in the shins and keep kicking them and scrap and fight as hard as possible. That the mentality we’re going to go in there with. …

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“We know this is going to definitely be the hardest game on our schedule this year, but a lot of guys are pretty pumped up for it.”

Zimmerman looks back at that 2014 season as the start of a long journey to get to North Dakota, his third college in the past four years.

His senior season at Monroe had gotten off to a near-flawless start. Monroe was 4-0 and Zimmerman had thrown for 1,032 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Then he tore a medial collateral ligament in his knee early in the fifth game and missed the remainder of the season. Monroe’s No. 2 QB also went down with an injury that game, and the team had to turn to a young freshman wide receiver as the new quarterback.

Zach Zimmerman never let go of the job.

“Over the next three years, he beat all my records,” Andrew Zimmerman said.

As he recovered from his knee surgery, he remained involved on the sideline, becoming like an extra coach to his teammates, and specifically to Zach. And that experience helped Andrew realize he some day would like to become a coach full-time, and he says he’s been building relationships and learning as much as he can at each program he’s been in.

During his senior year, Andrew Zimmerman originally had planned to accept a walk-on offer to play for Washington State. Then Eastern Washington called late in the recruiting process and offered him a chance to compete for the starting job there, and he took the roster spot Vernon Adams vacated after he transferred from EWU to Oregon.

In 2016, Andrew Zimmerman transferred to a junior college in California, Fresno City College, where he took over as the starter midway through the season and threw for 1,351 yards and 17 touchdowns. That led to the opportunity in Grand Forks (Zimmerman is the only Washingtonian on a North Dakota roster that includes players from 17 states, two Canadian provinces and one European country — the Netherlands, where two players are from.)

At Monroe, Andrew Zimmerman was a 4.0 student and the student-body president. He’s now a team captain at North Dakota, even after losing out on the three-man competition for the starting quarterback job last month.

Starter Nate Ketteringham threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns in North Dakota’s 35-7 season-opening victory over Mississippi Valley State; Zimmerman got in the game late and chuckled that he ended up with the longest running play of his career, 24 yards.

“We’re all good buddies and we all competed really hard (for the starting job),” Zimmerman said. “It doesn’t mean I stop working. I’ve been through a lot more to get here.”