ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have selected safety Justin Simmons as the team's 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide, it was announced on Thursday.
Simmons becomes the fourth Bronco (Wesley Woodyard, 2010-11, '13; Champ Bailey, 2008-09; Rod Smith, 2004, '06) to be nominated twice for the award, which recognizes a player for his outstanding leadership both on the field and in the community.
Selected by the Broncos in the third round (98th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft from Boston College, Simmons has consistently demonstrated a commitment to using his platform to impact the community during his five seasons as a Bronco. Despite the in-person challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Simmons' commitment to his communities has not wavered as he focused his 2020 outreach on COVID relief and social justice initiatives, while also launching the Justin Simmons Foundation.
Simmons, a two-time winner of the team's Community Ambassador Award (2017-18), was named a second-team All-Pro in 2019 and is currently among the leaders in 2020 Pro Bowl fan voting for free safeties. His also is a two-time winner of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award (2017, '19 seasons) as voted upon by the team's local media.
SIMMONS' 2020 COMMUNITY WORK
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.
Take a look back at some of the highlights of the community work of Justin Simmons, the Broncos' 2019 and 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.
WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE
As a nominee, Simmons will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field. All current players who have won the national award will wear a Man of the Year patch on their jerseys in perpetuity.
All 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LV. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 6, the eve of Super Bowl LV.
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name or Twitter handle.
The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide, the runner-up will receive $10,000 and the third-place winner will receive $5,000. New this year, fans can win NFL Shop gift cards and additional money for their favorite nominee's charity.
Each Monday during the #WPMOYChallenge, Nationwide will ask fans to respond on Twitter with their favorite nominee and one randomly selected fan each week will win a $100 NFL Shop gift card and $2,500 for their favorite nominee's charity. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.
Previous Broncos nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award include outside linebacker Von Miller (2018), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (2017), tight end Virgil Green (2016), safety David Bruton Jr. (2015), guard Ben Garland (2014), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (2010-11, '13), guard Zane Beadles (2012), cornerback Champ Bailey (2008-09), cornerback Domonique Foxworth (2007), wide receiver Rod Smith (2004, '06), safety John Lynch (2005), linebacker Ian Gold (2003) and wide receiver Ed McCaffrey (2002).
Quarterback John Elway (1992) is the only Broncos player to win the national award, which was first given in 1970 and renamed after the Chicago Bears' Pro Football Hall of Fame running back in 1999.