DENVER -- Justin Simmons skied 6-foot-2 in the high jump in high school. Scouts measured his vertical at 40 inches at the NFL combine in February.
The kid has hops. But blocks? He had never squashed a kick. Then Sunday afternoon against New Orleans the play came in -- "Leaper."
"I was like OK," said Simmons, his eyes widening as he recalled the moment. "I was like, um, OK."
With defensive end Jared Crick legally placing his hands on the long snapper's head, forcing him to the ground, Simmons timed the snap count based on previous kicks and jumped into the back field. He blocked Wil Lutz's extra point, turning a potential loss into an improbable 25-23 victory as rookie safety Will Parks scampered 84 yards for the two-point conversion.
For his efforts, Simmons was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday. Simmons is the first Broncos rookie to receive an AFC weekly award since outside linebacker Von Miller in Week 11 of 2011. The Broncos put the play in practice last week as special teams coach Joe DeCamillis wisely found a niche for Simmons' leaping ability.
"I felt my right forearm throbbing so I knew I blocked it," Simmons said, before joking, "I told Will I would have had to beat him up. I would have had to knock him out if he didn't score. That was the game right there. He knows that, too."
Drafted in the third round out of Boston College last spring, Simmons continues to blossom after being slowed earlier in the season with a broken bone in his hand. He helped execute only the third two-point defensive score since the NFL implemented the rule in 2015. Simmons' block was the first to provide the winning margin. Simmons' award is the Broncos' 26th Special Teams Player of Week honor claimed since 1993. Kicker Matt Prater won it last in 2013.
Safety Darian Stewart hoped to claim Defensive Player of Week honors after producing three takeaways, but Kansas City safety Eric Berry won the honor.
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