ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — During his career in Denver, Justin Simmons has earned the unprecedented honor of being named the Broncos' Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in three consecutive seasons.
From 2019-21, Simmons was tabbed as the Broncos' nominee for his extensive community work.
But as Simmons said Wednesday, there are still things he can learn about how he gives back to the community — and he believes he can take a lesson or two from the Broncos' newest Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner.
Guard Dalton Risner, a fourth-year pro who is a first-time winner of the prestigious national award, has set a standard in his home state of Colorado — and it's been clear to his teammates and coaches.
"Dalton earned it," Simmons said. "… I think 'Dalt' over the last few years has just done such an amazing job with his foundation — the RisnerUp Foundation. He has [children's] books. The interactions he has with the kids and the stories of how he keeps in touch … that inspires me. I feel like I need to do more now. I can do a little bit more. I'm excited for him."
Simmons said over the previous years, he's seen Risner at countless community events and lauded the work that he and his wife, Whitney, are doing with the RisnerUp Foundation.
"There couldn't be anyone better in the locker room to represent our organization," Simmons said. "I personally believe he has a great shot of potentially winning it. He does so much. He means so much to Colorado. What a story — [him being from] Wiggins and how much he means."
As Risner reflected on the honor, he noted the importance of continuing to give back to the Colorado community despite the Broncos' on-field struggles.
"The season's not going as we wanted to, but there still are a lot of important things that need to go down," Risner said. "I think our team does a great job of reflecting that."
The Wiggins native has certainly lived up to that standard himself. Through his work with youth development, Broncos-led outreach and his own foundation, Risner has participated in nearly 50 community events in 2022.
"Being the Walter Payton Man of the Year for us is unbelievable," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "Our whole team does so much for this community. I think one great thing about Dalton is he's been our rock in the offense. He hasn't missed a game yet. We're so grateful for that. All the stuff that he does off the field is absolutely incredible, along with our entire team."
The importance of Risner's work in the community is only amplified by the fact that it's taking place in his home state and for his hometown team.
"I grew up dreaming about what it was like to be a Bronco," Risner said. "… Despite the record, despite us not being where we want to be, I'm just super grateful. It's a huge blessing for me."
From the time he founded the RisnerUp Foundation during his college days, Risner has always aimed to pass those blessings back onto others.
"It was just always something that's been so important to me," Risner said. "I don't want to get up here and say it's more important than football, because without football you don't have a platform. The way we treat people is the stuff that lasts. In 10 years, I don't care if you come up to me and talk about how great of a left guard I was. I care about what's right here [in my heart] and how I treated people, and that's what matters in life."
Already honored with the Broncos' nomination for the 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Risner will soon have a chance to be selected as the national winner.
He'll wear a helmet decal for the rest of the season, and he'll be recognized for his contributions in the lead-up to Super Bowl LVII. Risner will already receive a $40,000 donation in his name to the charity of his choice, and the winner will receive up to a $250,000 donation.
The national award winner will be recognized during NFL Honors on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 — and the Broncos have a player who understands the weight of the honor.
Russell Wilson was named the 2020 recipient, and he lauded the importance of the award.
"It's a special award," Wilson said Wednesday. "I think it's the best award in the game. It's because [it recognizes] what you do in impacting people — and there's nobody that does it better than Dalton. This team is really, really amazing at that when it comes to the community."
In a city and a state that means so much to him, Risner has only enhanced those efforts.
Broncos fans can help Risner earn a donation to a charity of his choice by participating in the Nationwide Charity Challenge. Fans can vote on Twitter by tweeting #WPMOYChallenge + Risner or #WPMOYChallenge + @DaltonRisner66. The player who receives the most votes will receive a $25,000 donation. The second- and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000, respectively._