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Mile High Morning: Justin Simmons shares his gratitude for Steve Atwater's mentorship


The Lead

Justin Simmons and Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Atwater are two of the greatest free safeties to ever play for the Broncos, and over the years they have developed an unbreakable bond. 

With two picks in Week 13 against the Ravens, Simmons tied Atwater for the ninth-most interceptions in Broncos history (24). The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla noted that this was not only a special milestone for Simmons because he moved up in the franchise's record books, but also because it further connected him to one of his most cherished mentors. 

"Any time you're in the same sentence as a Hall of Famer like Steve, there is obviously high praise there," Simmons said Wednesday. "That's really cool. I know I've always shared every time I've talked about Steve, but he's meant so much to me and my growth, not only as a player, but just as a man, as a professional, as a husband. Just the little tidbits he gives me every time we're walking off the field, or I see him after the game — after a win, or even after loss. He's been such a pillar in my life since I've stepped in here and I got drafted. I can't be more thankful for him. Just to be in the same realm when we are talking about interceptions and obviously tying him with that — it's just a tremendous blessing. That's exactly what it is." 

Kiszla explained that when Simmons was a young player in the league, Atwater took him under his wing and frequently gave him advice that the team captain still appreciates years later. 

"Recognizing undeniable talent, Atwater humbly approached Simmons and offered suggestions that always began with these words: 'Not that I know everything, but here's what I did ...'" Kiszla wrote. "Simmons did more than take copious notes. He engraved the advice from Atwater in his brain." 

Atwater told Kiszla that he appreciates Simmons for much more than just what he has accomplished on the field. As the Broncos' three-time nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Simmons has made Atwater just as proud of his dedication to the community.

"If you have something valuable to give and you don't share it," Atwater told Kiszla, "you're the one who's really missing out on what matters in life."

Below the Fold

The Broncos' offense had its best showing of the season in Sunday's game against the Chiefs, and a major reason for its improvement was its ability to capitalize on turnovers. 

Through the first 12 games, quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver's offense were not able to score a touchdown after the Broncos' defense created a turnover. On Sunday, that all changed. 

In the final two minutes of the first half, inside linebacker Josey Jewell and cornerback Pat Surtain II picked off Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on subsequent drives. After both turnovers, the Broncos' offense found the end zone. 

"Offensively, the boys were scoring touchdowns and making big-time plays that kept us in the game," Surtain said after the game. "Defensively, we flied around, had fun of course and just made plays. That's what helped us a lot. Obviously, the result — we didn't like how it came up. There [are] still some things that we need to clean up, but I just thought as a team we played an overall good game."

The Unclassifieds

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