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Rookie Diaries: 'This is more than football'

In this week's Rookie Diaries, Will Parks and Justin Simmons joined several other members of the rookie class at UC Hospital to visit with patients. During their trip, they met with Jeremy, who is waiting for a heart transplant, and Gary, who is fighting bladder cancer.

Will Parks: I'm usually pretty good at coming out on Tuesday community service trips. I have been all year. It's been a crazy two weeks, but this has kind of been my outlet to see people, hear about their stories. I can learn about different backgrounds. There's a lot of people out there that are less fortunate. Obviously we're blessed to be in the position that we are and as healthy as we are today.

Justin Simmons:I think you tip your hats to the vets and the whole organization for showing how important it is to give back and get out in the community. Since we got here right after the draft, it's been expressed that community is really important to Broncos Country. It's always been at the top of our list and we love to do it.

WP: That just goes to show you the leadership that we've been around ever since we got here. Everybody here's a key part in our success so far, whether it's practice squad or not, they make us better and we make them better at the end of the day.

JS: You look at the vets spending their afternoons and their nights going out to all these different places: Boys & Girls Club and UC Hospital, to name a couple. It's just awesome seeing everyone so committed to the community. That's why Denver loves its Broncos, just because they're just as committed as we are to them.


View highlights from the Broncos' trip to UC Hospital and meet some of the patients who met with Broncos players. (Photos by Aric DiLalla)

WP:** It helps us play for them, our families and people who don't have much. We're their pride. We're their joy. They're the reason we play. 

JS: Denver has done such a great job of opening its arms to us. Obviously, a lot of great players on last year's team have left, and they've done a great job of welcoming us with open arms and really making us feel accepted. That just makes us want to go out and meet even more people and show that there's a lot more behind a football player than just football. It's nice to show your face in the community and meet new people and hear awesome stories like we did today.

WP: The patients are so strong in their own way, they don't even realize it. To have that strength to fight and still watch our games, that says a whole lot about their personality and how much they love us. All we want to do is get the wins and return the love back by visiting them wherever they are.

Then we met Gary, who's a strong man. When they told us about his story before we walked into the room, we were all shocked. He had the audacity to fight and the wellness to be here.

As soon as Justin walked into the room, I saw his whole face light up into a very big smile. It was a big day for us. Just to hear about his story. Not just Gary, but everybody else in the hospital. We made a couple trips to a couple patients who look up to us. To go in there and hear about what they've been through only makes us much more blessed.

JS:When I met Jeremy, I walked in there, and before I even said my name he goes, "Mr. Simmons, it's nice to meet you!" That just put a huge smile on my face because you've got a guy with a heart transplant who's fighting for his life, but he loves his Broncos and drove from Wyoming all the way here just to meet a couple of the guys. That's what it's all about: making their day. And just getting to meet them and have that personal conversation.

WP: I didn't grow up with too much. My mom and my dad made sure I had food on the table and clothes on my back, but that's every family. So this is just big for me, because not that many people came to my community when I was little. Not that many professional athletes, rappers or anyone came to my community. They were scared to just because of where I grew up. I'm not scared to go anywhere because of where I come from. I'm from Philly. That's what raised me. That's what molds me. That's what grooms me.

JS: This is real life. This is more than football. You get so caught up in watching films and winning games and going to the playoffs and winning championships that you can forget the things like people fighting for their lives every day over here. It really just humbles you. And it's definitely well needed, especially at this point in the season when things are heating up.

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