Mills, who will serve as the head coach of the East team, has spent the past 14 seasons (2005-present) on the Panthers' staff and the past eight (2011-18) as assistant defensive line coach. He was promoted to defensive line coach this past December.
During Mills' tenure, the Carolina defensive line has established itself as a dominant unit, leading the NFL in sacks and ranking third in rushing yards allowed since 2012. His linemen contributed to a sixth-ranked defense that reached the Super Bowl in 2015, led by Pro Bowler Kawann Short's career-high 11 sacks. In 2013, Carolina's 60 sacks ranked first in the league and were tied for the most in a single season in franchise history (60 in 1996). A Division II All-American linebacker at Montclair State, Mills III is the son of Sam Mills, the former Panther linebacker who is the only player in franchise history to have his number retired and remains the only player inducted into the team's Hall of Honor.
Zimmer, who will coach the West team, is a 13-year coaching veteran and has spent the past five seasons (2014-present) as the Vikings' linebackers coach. In 2017, led by leading tackler Eric Kendricks and Pro Bowler Anthony Barr, Zimmer's unit contributed to a defense that led the league in both total defense and scoring defense. Prior to joining Minnesota's staff, Zimmer spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals (2013), Kansas City Chiefs (2010-12) and New Orleans Saints (2006-09), where he served as assistant linebacker coach during their Super Bowl XLIV-winning season. A former safety at Trinity University, Adam is the son of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
"We have a terrific partnership with the NFL that has once again yielded two outstanding head coaches," said Harold Richardson, executive director of the East-West Shrine Game. "Sam Mills III and Adam Zimmer are excellent teachers who will enjoy this opportunity and no doubt be tremendous examples for our players as they prepare to launch their NFL careers."
At the conclusion of the NFL regular season, teams nominated deserving assistant coaches who were reviewed by a panel that includes NFL Football Operations staff, East-West Shrine Game leadership and two members of the NFL's General Managers Advisory Committee. Once the head coaches are selected, each head coach then fills his 12-person staff from among other NFL assistant coaches nominated by the clubs, a key job requirement for head coaches at every level of the sport.
Coaches nominated by NFL clubs must be active assistant coaches who display extraordinary teaching and communications skills, and are recognized for their integrity and commitment to excellence in the coaching profession. The coaches must be accomplished at developing and preparing players to compete in the NFL.
The NFL also provides the game officials for the contest.
The 94th annual East-West Shrine Game, which features some of college football's best prospects, will kick off at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 19, from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida and be televised live on NFL Network.
For more than 90 years, some of football's greatest players and coaches have contributed to the tradition of the East-West Shrine Game, the nation's first college all-star football game. Created by the Shriners in 1925, the game is driven by the desire to support Shriners Hospitals for Children in its mission to help children in need of expert medical care. Participating players make an annual visit to the local Shriners Hospital, visiting children and staff in an experience that they will truly never forget.