ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have selected safety Justin Simmons as the team's 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide, it was announced on Tuesday.
Simmons becomes the second Bronco (Wesley Woodyard, 2010-11, '13) to be nominated three times and first to earn the nomination consecutively. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award 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 six seasons as a Bronco.
Simmons' commitment to his community has not wavered throughout his time in Denver, continuously expanding the reach of his impact, varying from social justice efforts to mentoring local youth and creating his own foundation to expand beyond Colorado.
Simmons, a two-time winner of the team's Community Ambassador Award (2017-18), was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020. He is also the team's first three-time winner of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award (2017, '19 and '20 seasons) as voted upon by the team's local media.
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.
SIMMONS' 2021 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.
The Foundation launched its inaugural "31 for the Holidays" program this year, announcing grants to Denver Rescue Mission and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and Martin County, providing holiday gifts for more than 130 children and supporting 25 families.
He was also honored in 2021 with the Pop Warner Little Scholars Inspiration to Youth Award, in recognition of his love and dedication to football, his community, and his role as an inspiration to young people everywhere.
Throughout the last year, Simmons and his teammates collaborated with local activists to push for decarceration of non-violent offenders and clemency reform. He was featured in ACLU Colorado's Redemption Campaign, a statewide initiative to safely release thousands of people from prison who pose no public safety risk. Simmons continuously meets with Governor Jared Polis' office to discuss utilizing clemency in new and transformational ways.
After working with Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) through the Denver Broncos Inspire Change program in 2020, Simmons remained engaged with the program by speaking on its SBLV Leadership Panel. He continued to meet monthly with Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club teens he had mentored during the team's RISE 9-week leadership program last year.
He teamed up with Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club teenagers Nashara and Naja'Ray to support their efforts to plan and hold a March for Peace in June 2021 and continues to use his platform to highlight their activism and elevate their voices. The march focused on effecting change in their neighborhood and country, as well as providing an opportunity to remember and mourn loved ones lost to violence.
Simmons continues to play an active role in the Denver Broncos' weekly community outreach opportunities, joining his teammates in giving back to Broncos Country. This year alone, Simmons volunteered at nearly 40 community events facilitated by the team, spanning 24 different nonprofits and community organizations in each of the team's five focus areas (Civic Engagement, Health & Wellness, Quality of Life, Youth Development, Youth Football).
After hearing about a family who lost their son, also named Justin Simmons, the safety connected with the family to express his condolences. Simmons took it a step further and invited the family of eight to Colorado for the team's home opener, taking care of all associated costs, including airfare, accommodations, tickets, and more in an effort to offer family support and increase awareness around the importance of organ donations
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 LVI. The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 10, 2022 at 7 p.m. MST (9 p.m. ET).
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $40,000 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.
Now through Jan. 17, 2022, 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 and/or Twitter handle. The player whose name is used the most during that time will receive a $25,000 contribution to his designated charity, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations respectively, all courtesy of Nationwide. New this year, votes posted on Jan. 4 and 5, count twice and the first player to reach one million votes receives $10,000 for their charity.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and Charity Challenge 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.