DENVER -- Justin Simmons never misses an opportunity to help. For years, he attended his teammates' community events to support them and find ways he could make a difference.
It led to the creation of the Justin Simmons Foundation, geared around assisting children. So it came as no surprise Thursday that the Broncos nominated him for Walter Payton Man of the Year honors. It marks Simmons' second straight nod, joining Champ Bailey, Rod Smith and Wesley Woodyard as the franchise's only multi-year nominees.
"This award is the most prestigious award in the NFL, in my opinion. I mean All-Pro, Pro Bowls, what you are chasing after, this award means the most to be personally," said Simmons, who began with opening remarks thanking the media for supporting the community work of his teammates. "I don't do it for the accolades. I am truly humbled."
Considered the NFL's most prestigious award, it recognizes players for outstanding leadership both on the field and in the community. Simmons has been been involved since he was drafted. He has been named a community ambassador by the team, and received the Good Guy award for his professional dealings with the media.
Dalton Risner was presented with the Broncos’ Community Impact Award. Bradley Chubb, Alexander Johnson, Joe Jones and Tim Patrick received the team’s Community Ambassador Awards. McTelvin Agim is the Community Rookie of the Year.
Here is a glance of what earned Simmons the Payton nomination, via the Broncos press release:
In June of 2020, Simmons announced the establishment of the Justin Simmons Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth development, hunger relief, educational initiatives and other charitable causes. Through strategic programming and initial outreach, he is dedicated to mentoring young people, promoting the benefits of youth sports and supporting youth education.
All of Simmons’ efforts in this area have the goal of leveling the playing field for children to provide an equitable chance for success.
Simmons has continued to combat systemic injustices against Black Americans and people of color as a locker room, league and community leader. He delivered inspiring protest speeches, specifically addressing issues of racial inequity and police brutality, in both his hometown of Stuart, Fla., and at the state capitol in Denver before marching alongside his teammates and members of the organization.Through large group and individual breakout meetings with Broncos players and coaches, Simmons was a significant leader in the creation and implementation of the team’s Inspire Change program. He also has lent his name and support for legislative change.
As one of the main focuses of the Broncos Inspire Change Program, the Denver Broncos launched a multi-week teen program at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club in partnership with Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). The program allows participants to have important and difficult conversations about race, perceptions and stereotypes.
Simmons’ dedication to youth development inspired him to commit to be a full and active participant in the season-long virtual leadership program with young Colorado residents. He sets aside time each and every week for the hour-long discussions.
While representing the NFL on a national Youth for Change Town Hall presented by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the NFL Foundation, Simmons joined a panel dedicated to creating change, focusing on race, social justice and criminal justice reform. The virtual event reached hundreds of Boys & Girls Clubs members across the country.
Simmons’ efforts to affect legislation included signing the NFL Players Coalition’s Letter to Congress calling for the bill to end qualified immunity. He also actively participated in lobbying and advocating for Colorado Senate Bill 20-217 (mandating body cameras, public reporting on policing, reign in use of deadly force by officers, and more). His activism continues during private meetings with civic leaders including Colorado Governor Jared Polis, local Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, U.S. Attorney Jason St. Julien, the Vera Institute of Justice and the ACLU of Colorado.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Simmons announced that he and his family made a personal $10,000 contribution to the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Foundation's Food Security Fund. The fund helped ensure that children who rely on free or reduced-cost school meals could still receive them throughout an extended spring break and subsequent closures.
Weeks after announcing his personal donation, Simmons teamed up with Dairy MAX, Fuel Up to Play 60 and the Denver Broncos to contribute an additional $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund to support local schools through emergency microgrants administered by GENYouth. Now in his third year as a FUTP60 Ambassador, he focuses messaging around youth physical activity and nutrition by encouraging students to be leaders in their own schools.
Simmons also advocates for access to nutritious meals in schools throughout the state of Colorado. He filmed a PSA for the Colorado Department of Education to inform parents of the process for registering for free and reduced meals, ensuring that all students have the fuel needed to be successful in the classroom.