Last season, the Denver Broncos turned an amazing defense into a Super Bowl Championship. They had future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning under center, sure, but it was the defense that led this team to victory after victory and ultimately the Super Bowl. So then it must be exciting for a defensive player to be drafted by an elite defense. It would be great to join a top defense, but there may be somebody ahead of you on the depth chart that you will have to wait for or overtake to get a chance to play. The best you can do is try to impress and earn a shot. That is what Justin Simmons did. He impressed, was drafted by a top defense and hoped to earn a chance to play some. As you can read in this article from Mile High Report, Simmons ranked tops in vertical and broad jump at the combine. And while the starter for the Broncos return from last year, the thought at the start of the season was that Simmons would have add a lot to the defense, too.
Simmons played outstanding defense in college too. With Boston College, he finished his career there with 9 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and over 200 tackles. But Simmons had an impact on more that just the field during his time at BC. You can read this article from BCeagles.com about how Simmons arrived in Boston from Florida and the transition to college was not easy. He said “It was tough because I didn’t play; I was getting knocked around on the scout team and school was hard… Everything about that time period was absolutely difficult. And that’s when I really needed to dig deep with my relationship with God and find it again.” He had been a regular at church and bible study growing up in Florida. But with college, something was missing. That is when he, along with teammate decided they wanted to start an Athletes in Action group on campus. They worked through the campus ministries to get an AIA group started and recognized by the school. Simmons continues “I think I just needed to step back and say, ‘Why did I even come here in the first place? Why did I even play sports?’ I wanted to glorify God’s name and everything he does, so if I quit, I’d be leaving a position that God put me in. I just had to refocus, stay patient and stay humble and have faith that good things will happen.”
In this article from Draftwire, Simmons shares the importance of his faith and God’s plan for his life. He says “I knew God beforehand, but I really found my relationship with Him on my own during that time, and really started to grow (in my faith). It was at that point in time that I realized I really needed to lean on Him and His promise for me, and even if its not football, that there is something greater for me.I just learned to be patient and trust in His will in my life.” He continues “My faith hasn’t just changed my life, it has saved my life, and that’s why I’m so outspoken about it. I just want other people to experience what I’ve experienced.”
Here are my takeaways from Simmons story:
1- Cannot Stay Silent – I really like the book of Acts. It is so encouraging to see how to early church grew and how that foundation is what the church today is built on. I am challenged by the boldness of Peter and John who after seeing Jesus killed and then encountering the risen Jesus, knew that He was the promised Messiah. They would share that message for the rest of their lives, regardless of the consequences that it may bring. Their boldness led them to be brought before the council for healing a lame man. They had been imprisoned and were being told not to tell anyone else about Jesus. But Peter and John remain bold with their answer in verses 19-20 “But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” I see this kind of boldness in Simmons’ story, too. When he arrived in college and found the connection with God suffering a little, he took steps to create the environment where he and others could study the bible, connect with God and encourage each other. Have you seen and experienced the goodness of God? Has meeting Him changed your life? If so, it is impossible to stay silent. He is what life is all about and sharing about Him is the mission that He has given us. Let’s be bold and proclaim His greatness to the world around us.
2- Finding a great partner – On April 1, 2016, Justin Simmons married his High School sweetheart. A couple of the articles that I read talked about their relationship and the long-distance challenge he and Taryn faced when he was in Boston and she was not. This connected with me because my wife and I met at a training program that lasted from September to December. We got engaged in April and married the following December. In the 12 months between the end of our program and our wedding day, we were in the same place for 5 months. The rest of the time, we were separated by thousands of miles and as many as 6 time zones. And that time that we had apart really forced us to work on the friendship part of our dating relationship. And it was good. It was hard, there were times when it would have been great to go on a date or hang out together with family or friends, but God used that time to build a foundation of friendship that now, almost 13 years into our marriage, continues to support and strengthen our marriage. Justin and his bride saw God’s faithfulness and grace carry them through their engagement has set them up for married life. I wish them the best and pray that God will continue to be a strong presence in their life together.