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Player Initiatives

The prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide historically recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970 and renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. Each year, the Denver Broncos are proud to nominate one player who has had a significant, positive impact on his community.

Quarterback John Elway is the only Broncos player to win the national award (1992).

2020 Denver Broncos Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: S Justin Simmons

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.


Youth Development:
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.

Social Justice:
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. 

COVID-19 Relief:
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.

More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at

Table inside Article
2019: Justin Simmons 2012: Zane Beadles 2006: Rod Smith
2018: Von Miller 2011: Wesley Woodyard 2005: John Lynch
2017: Chris Harris Jr. 2010: Wesley Woodyard 2004: Rod Smith
2016: Virgil Green 2009: Champ Bailey 2003: Ian Gold
2015: David Bruton Jr. 2008: Champ Bailey 2002: Ed McCaffrey
2014: Ben Garland 2007: Domonique Foxworth 2001: Eric Brown
2013: Wesley Woodyard