Zimmerly: A house divided; Catching up with brother Cade, who plays for Falcon football

PERRYSBURG — The Zimmerly house in Perrysburg was already divided between Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo camps.

That division may have been widened.

Kara Zimmerly attended BGSU and her husband, Craig Zimmerly, went to UT.

Their son, BGSU 6-foot-1, 295-pound sophomore center and offensive guard Cade Zimmerly has already filled a starting role for the Falcons on the offensive line.

So, when Cade’s “little” brother Grant, at 6-4, 285, committed to Toledo after graduating from Perrysburg in 2023, it only made the lives of Kara and Craig, natives of Ottawa, Ohio, that much more complicated.

The Zimmerly brothers have always been rivals — sibling rivals, that is.

That’s what helped them get so good at what they do — and that is push people around. They’ve been pushing each other around for most of their lives.

“My brother, ever since he graduated and we started getting into the swing of football, he tells me, ‘I used to hate you in high school but now that you are gone, I can see why you did that,’” Cade said.

Starting as a true freshman at Kent State, Bowling Green State University offensive lineman Cade Zimmerly (72). (Luke Allen/BGSU Athletics)

supplied photo

“We’d go to the same gym, but during COVID that was not really an option, so every day we would try to out push each other. We would go until one of us could not do a single push-up,” Cade continued.

“Everything we do growing up has always been competitive. Ever since he committed there it has stepped up to a whole new level.”

The rivalry even got heated when they played board games at home.

“My brother and I, when we were playing chess — we grew up playing board games together — and it got to a point where my grandmother says, ‘I’m not playing with you two anymore,’” Cade said.

“Then, when we played high school football together for the two years, we’d sit down and watch film together and I’d go, ‘Oops, you messed up there’ and he’d say the same thing to me.”

Cade said that all that competition is paying off for both brothers.

“We definitely made each other a lot better,” Cade said. “I can say there was one time where my brother wanted to sleep in on one of those quote-unquote ‘optional workouts.’

“So, I took his bed, and I threw it downstairs, and my mom wasn’t too happy about it. My brother ended up going.”

Highly touted recruits

The brothers likely will never line up against each other because Grant was recruited as an offensive lineman by Toledo.

Grant was first team All-Northern Lakes League and second team All-Ohio at Perrysburg, and joins high school classmate Connor Walendzak, a 5-11, 200-pound freshman running back at Toledo.

Both Walendzak and Grant Zimmerly were three-star recruits. Walendzak will tell you that Grant was a big reason he totaled 4,274 rushing yards, 74 total touchdowns and 673 receiving yards at Perrysburg.

Walendzak was named first team All-Ohio at running back in 2020, second team All-Ohio in 2021. and offensive district player of the year in 2021 and 2022. Walendzak was also named first team All-NLL in 2020, 2021 and 2022, as well as NLL Player of the Year in 2022.

Out of Toledo’s 29 players added on national signing day, four were from Northwest Ohio and two are from Perrysburg — Walendzak and Grant Zimmerly.

“Our recruiting starts with a local footprint right here in our hometown,” said Toledo coach Jason Candle. “We have many players from the local area, whether they be scholarship players or guys who have committed her to be preferred walk-ons.

“We’ve seen a major influx of talent from our area on our team. It starts from there and branches ou,” Candle said.

Thrown into the fire

Cade has already been tested at the collegiate level.

He made his first collegiate start at center in front of a national television audience and 80,000 fans during a 38-6 loss at Tennessee in 2021. He was the only true freshman walk-on in the nation to be listed as a starter at any position during the opening weekend.

That season he started in 10 of the Falcons’ 12 games, including two at center and eight starts at left guard.

“He’s picked up the offense quickly and the thing I love about him is he plays really hard,” then-BGSU senior quarterback Matt McDonald said. “He explodes off the ball.”

Cade said it was a very challenging experience.

“It was kind of like learning to swim,” Cade said. “The best way to do it is just get thrown into the deep end and figure it out.

“When you get thrown into the deep end, you have two options — you can either drown or you can learn to survive, then after that you can learn to become a great swimmer.

“I kind of was thrown in there and at first, I was struggling but then after I got the hang of it, it just started coming like second nature to me and I realized, ‘Oh, it is just football and I’ve done this my whole life.’”

Cade had to redshirt last season because of an injury and is not expected back until October.

“My goal is to always push myself mentally since I can’t do a lot physically now, and I’m in and out of my playbook just studying just so when I’m back in I can start rattling stuff off.”

Cade is becoming a teacher, too.

“The offensive line room feels like it’s a whole new team and we’re excited to get started,” Cade said. “Since I am injured, I’m teaching some guys some tricks and some plays.

“It’s great. I’m teaching a lot of the guys some tricks that I’ve learned over the years — just whatever is better for the team.”

Like his brother Grant and Walendzak, Cade has company on the roster in the form of 6-3, 230-pound junior tight end Nic Kilbride, also from Perrysburg.

“Nic is a great guy. He’s a real hard worker and we used to work out together,” Cade said. “One of our coaches in high school would have all the college kids come back during the summer and Nic and I always went to his running, and we always pushed each other there.”

At Perrysburg, Zimmerly and Kilbride played for former BGSU player Matt Kregel.

“Coach Kregel did a great job preparing me for what college football was going to be like,” Cade said. “We talk all the time. He tells me some old college stories and then I tell him some of mine. His wife always says how scary-alike we are.”

The Yellow Jackets went 16-5 during Cade’s final two seasons, including 8-2 as a senior in 2020, and he was a three-time first All-Northern Lakes League offensive tackle, NLL Co-Player of the Year and Northwest Ohio Lineman of the Year as a senior.

As a junior, he was honorable mention All-Ohio. He posted 62 tackles and two sacks as a senior and totaled 184 tackles and seven sacks during his career.

Cade wanted to be a Falcon, even turning down other offers to walk on.

“It was a dream school since I was in middle school,” Cade said. “I’ve always wanted to play for Bowling Green.

“I grew up a Bowling Green fan and when the opportunity presented itself to take a shot at my dream, I decided to take it.”