Second-year safety Justin Simmons took over the starting role for the Broncos as the season began, and he's wasted no time in finding rhythm with the rest of the "No-Fly Zone." During a rare off moment for Simmons, we caught up with him about stepping into that role, the "Baby No-Fly" and his hot basketball take.
Aric DiLalla:You had some success at Boston College, but the Broncos' organization was coming off a Super Bowl win. What sort of differences did you see in the culture that you had to get used to?
Justin Simmons:With B.C., I mean historically, they've always been a solid football team. When I was there, really all we had going for us besides my sophomore and junior year, all we had going for us was defensively and so everyone knew defensively we were going to come out and be one of the best, but overall as a team, offensively and special teams we sometimes struggled. The transition here was great because from special teams to offense to defense, the whole organization, all the way from the Bowlen family to [John Elway] to Joe Ellis all the way down to the equipment staff [and] the training staff. Everything here is top-notch and handled with so much class. You can tell just from walking in here and the way the players carry themselves and everybody else, it's just such a prestigious organization. It's the best. That's why it's been so successful for however many years. That's something I wasn't necessarily used to at Boston College, and now transitioning here, it's more than just football. … It's just crazy how everything is so connected.
AD: **When you took over for T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib said you could handle it in part because you're married. What sort of stability has marriage given you and what has it taught you that you've been able to take toward your professional career?
JS:It just limits distractions. I'm not saying that's the only reason I got married (laughs), but it helps tremendously. I get to come home and I have someone home waiting for me that I can talk about my day with if I need to. She obviously doesn't understand football as well as the guys in the locker room do, but I can go home to her and just get some stuff off my chest. The real reason why I've been able to handle this transition and why it's going so smoothly is because of the guys I'm playing with. There's not as much pressure as you'd think there is because I'm playing with All-Pros across the board. Our front seven is tremendous. You look at the Dallas game and what we were able to do in stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, it makes our job on the back end so easy. And then you've got guys like Chris and 'Lib able to lock up in the secondary — and that helps you play that center field so much more smoothly. This team is all about sacrifice and playing for and with each other. So it's great, man. I love it.
AD: In your first year as a full-time starter, what's it been like to run out of the tunnel?
JS:It was cool. I was really just focused on not doing anything crazy and just running straight through and getting to the guys and getting ready to play the game. It's something that you dream about as a kid, looking out at the NFL and wanting to be an NFL player and hopefully, at one point in your career, start and have your name announced. My dreams for that have been so far surpassed. I couldn't have asked for a better place in Broncos Country and playing for the Broncos and having that crowd cheer for you when you're coming out and playing for something bigger than yourself.
AD: **You and Will Parks have talked a lot about how you're the "Baby No-Fly." Now that you're starting and Will's a starter in dime packages, have you transitioned into the full-time "No-Fly Zone"? If not, what do you have to do to get there?
JS:I think we've transitioned. There's still obviously so much work to put in. There's still so much of the season left. … There's still so much football to be played and so much more to be proven, but you have to make that transition. You can't sit around in that rookie bubble and that you're-still-new-to-the-NFL bubble. We're asked to step up and make plays and consistently — week-in and week-out — contribute and make more plays than you don't. So you have to step up to that role.
AD:You played high school basketball — what's the scouting report on Justin Simmons, the basketball player?
JS:Dangerous. Dangerous. Watch out for him. He has a mean crossover, an even meaner hesitation move, and he's looking for crowd-roaring dunks anytime he can. I love playing basketball. I still do. When we have a lot of time off in the offseason, I'll go back and play with my brothers and stuff like that. Basketball's always been fun for me.
AD:How could somebody exploit your weakness on the court?
JS:To exploit me as a player? It's probably to get somebody who has really good on-ball defense, because my dribbling could use some work. So if have to work around you a lot all game, you probably would get me every now and then. All in all, though, there's not too many weaknesses in my basketball game. I'm pretty sharp.
AD: **Can anybody in the locker room match up with you?
JS:No. No, not at all. D.T. [Demaryius Thomas] and Bennie [Fowler III] talk about it all the time. Stew [Darian Stewart], too. They talk about how they could beat me. There's no chance. There's no way they could beat me. We're going to have to play here soon, sometime in the offseason, when we've got some time.
AD:If you took the five best players in this locker room, could you beat a low-level Division I basketball team?
JS:Yes. And I know there's a huge argument about that. And this is no disrespect to a low Division I basketball team, because I know the work that those guys put in, and I know the sacrifice that those guys put in, and I know that's their job in college. But we're at an elite level of playing our sport. Granted, it's not basketball, but you have to have elite athleticism to be able to play in the NFL. I really believe with some of the height and size that we've got, our five best players would definitely give them a run for their money and I bet we would win.
AD: Who would be on your team?
JS:I would put myself, obviously. I would put Stew, 'Lib, I would put D.T., Bennie and then we would only need one alternate, and I'm bringing Will, because Will hoops too.