Heimerdinger died Sept. 30 after being diagnosed with a rare from of cancer last November. He was 58.
Among those who came to pay their respects included three current NFL head coaches with ties to “Dinger” and two former NFL head coaches as well. Those in attendance included current coaches Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions and Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans and former NFL head coaches Jeff Fisher and Dave McGinnis.
Fisher and Shanahan, two of Heimerdinger's closest friends, served as pallbearers, as did Heimerdinger's father Robert, brother Jeff and son Brian. Long-time NFL offensive line coach Alex Gibbs was also a pallbearer as was Oklahoma State assistant coach Joe DeForest and Michael LeMay.
Plenty of assistant coaches who had coached with Heimerdinger and players whom he had coached attended as well, including Hall of Fame Denver Broncos quarterback (and current team president) John Elway and former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl tackle Brad Hopkins.
“It seemed like I knew Dinger for a very long time, and that's the way Mike Heimerdinger was,” said McGinnis, who was part of Fisher's Titans staff with Heimerdinger. “If you knew him for a day or for your entire life, you knew him exactly the same way. He was a very, very special guy. He was a guy that you always wanted with you on the sideline, the office, on the golf course.”
Heimerdinger coached 16 years in the NFL and had two stints each with Shanahan and Fisher, two of his closest friends in the profession.
Heimerdinger and Shanahan were college roommates at Eastern Illinois in the 1970s, and when Shanahan came to Denver in 1995, he added Heimerdinger as his wide receivers coach.
Fisher recalled his meeting with Heimerdinger when he first offered him the job as his offensive coordinator in 2000. Fisher had already known Heimerdinger before that from being friends with Shanahan.
“I had been close with Mike Shanahan due to the fact that he had worked together in the early '90s with the San Francisco 49ers. We would do things socially, and that's when I met Mike (Heimerdinger),” Fisher said. “Then after the Super Bowl, when we had the opening, I met Mike at the Combine and we talked and talked and talked. We actually drove back from Indy to Nashville together. I introduced him to the staff and he took the job.”
Some of Heimerdinger's greatest accomplishments came with the Titans, where he helped transform Steve McNair into the NFL's co-Most Valuable Player in 2003.
Heimerdinger's first stint as Titans offensive coordinator ended after the 2004 season as he became offensive coordinator for the New York Jets for one season, before returning to Denver as assistant head coach under Shanahan, where he worked with QB Jay Cutler.
Heimerdinger then was rehired by Fisher in 2008 as offensive coordinator and served in that role through last season, even after the diagnosis.
“I don't think people really and truly realize what he went through the last six weeks of the season,” Fisher said. “Can you comprehend going to chemotherapy treatments and then coming back to practice, and then stay focused enough to call a game? It was an incredible fight for him.”