Simmons, a third-round pick out of Boston College, and Will Parks, a sixth-round pick from Arizona, are two members of the eight-man draft class that made the Broncos' initial 53-man roster. The two newest members of the "No Fly Zone" lived together in the team hotel from the beginning of rookie minicamp all the way through the end of preseason, and they've formed a pretty tight bond along the way.* *
*"Rookie Diaries" follows Simmons and Parks as they traverse their way through the season. Football will have a heavy impact on their years, but this space will also allow them to focus on their lives away from UCHealth Training Center. As they adjust to the realities of the NFL, this is their space to talk to each other and, in their words, reflect on life in the pros. *
Sept. 12, 2016 - The 'Welcome to the NFL' moment
Will Parks: Everybody talks about how much of a dream that is to be in that situation. To actually really be there – you can see how it feels. For me, it was like a sigh of a relief that I officially brought everything that I spoke as a little kid into existence. That was one of the best things for me. Running down that field a couple times against a great team. They beat everybody in the NFL last year except for us.
I've never really been to an NFL game. To actually be on the field, to be a player for this city, it's more than a dream come true.
Justin Simmons: This game was wild. It was crazy. Definitely way more relief and more excitement going in and winning this one.
WP:** It was crazy before the game to see Peyton walk out the door. To be honest, that lit up a fire in my brain that said, "You need to get a Super Bowl right now. If you can't get it right now, get it the next day. Work toward pushing your teammates so that you're ready." I was motivated from that. I'm always motivated from my situation, my upbringing, where I come from, but seeing him – Peyton Manning – bring that trophy out, it was crazy.
It was super real because I've never seen him in real life. You hear all about Peyton Manning around here. You hear about all the great quarterbacks, like John Elway. In my time, it was Peyton Manning. I just missed him by a year. To see him in person ... When he walked out of that room, it was like, you're really here. You're here. It's plain and simple. That was the 'Welcome to the NFL' moment. … Then to get a 21-20 win in prime time, that was definitely a 'Welcome to the NFL' moment.
JS: It was wild. We were talking about it today. All the guys were telling us, that's what playoff games feel like. The crowd behind you, last-second, down-to-the-wire field goal. It was wild.
WP: It felt good to get out there. I was nervous to begin with. I ain't gonna lie. I thought I had to go to the bathroom six times before the game started, 'cause I just never knew what was gonna happen. It was a sign of relief.
JS: Every opportunity and chance that we get to experience big-time games is good. Especially for us being young and being in the mix. We've gotta be on top of our stuff way more than anyone else.
WP: I actually caught a headache from that last drive because of how loud it was. The defense was out there and did their thing. They told me how it was gonna be when that defense goes out. Cam called timeout about eight times. If they had eight timeouts, he probably would have used them all. It was so loud.* *
JS: They told us in the huddle on that last drive after the penalty: A good defense responds no matter what the call is. So we had to put our foot in the ground and find a way to win the game.
WP:** I went up to the bench before the field goal, I looked away, and then I said, "You know what, I've kinda been in these situations before." I was like if he makes it, and they call timeout, he's not gonna make it again.
JS: I was thinking, "Just make a play." Get through, try to get this block, try to win the game. As it was going, I didn't get to the point to block the kick, but you just look back and you saw it go wide left and just the emotions of winning your first NFL game against a team like Carolina, it's big.
WP: Now when I get to the playoffs, I'll know what it feels like. I'll be better and more prepared for it. The fans, the crowd – they're not fans, they're like our family. I felt that from the first preseason game. They're not our fans, they're our family. What they got, 12th man up there in Seattle? We've got like 76,000th man.
JS: It was definitely calm after the game and really nice. It was good seeing my wife. It's a lot different than college. You know you see family and you've kinda got to go your separate ways. But yeah it was nice.
I definitely felt more beat up after the game than in college. You never feel it during the game, honestly. Your adrenaline's going. You're trying to make good plays for the team. And then after you're like, damn.
WP: I was still amped when I got home, man. I was like 'I wish we could play eight quarters.' It was everything that you hoped for in a game. It was a close game, but I wish every game was like that.