‘The Musical’ is a stage production. The Broncos safety believes the project’s approach to mental health and self-worth is critical in assisting the next generation.
Justin Simmons is a Pro Bowl safety for the Denver Broncos and the highest-paid player in the NFL at his position, yet as a youngster, he was prone to bullying, which affects one out of every five pupils aged 12 to 18.
It’s one of the things that drives him to make a difference in the lives of today’s youth.
“Bullying is one of the things that bothers me the most in today’s society,” Simmons, who signed a four-year, $61 million deal with the Broncos in March, told The Undefeated, “and I experienced bullying when I was younger moving from Virginia to South Florida right when I started middle school, so that was hard.”
He became the first Broncos player to be nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award three times in a row in December, a testament to the time and effort he devotes to influencing the next generation. Speak Life End Bullying the Musical is one of the community service projects he works on and relates with because of its objective to end bullying with a message of empathy. Speak Life Performing Arts Company was founded in 2001 by Dan and Rebecca Burd as a school-based touring program.
In Simmons’ hometown of Stuart, Florida, the Burds attend the same church as Simmons. In 2020, the couple approached the football star and his wife, Taryn, to see if they would be interested in funding a revamp of the show, which includes five new original songs and a refreshed storyline that follows the daily lives of high school students as they are guided by a janitor who acts as a kind of fairy godfather.
The Simmons family jumped on board straight away, funding the transition of the musical into a film that can be shown in schools, with the objective of reaching 1 million children in 1,000 schools by 2022. The Burds have already received thousands of messages from principals who are awestruck by the transformation in their schools’ atmosphere.
“We knew that at some point, that dialogue would lead to the person who could take this and accomplish something bigger and better than we could have ever imagined, and reach more kids than we could have ever imagined,” Rebecca Burd said. “It was that night, when we sat down with Justin and Taryn and had that supper, that we realized we had met that person.”
Simmons is a huge fan of musical theatre and was particularly inspired by a certain pop culture star when he was younger.
“I’ve always wanted to be Troy Bolton from ‘High School Musical.’ He was a top athlete in high school, so of course, he’s in a musical, right?” He could sing, dance, and do just about anything,” he added.
Although Simmons quickly discovered that he isn’t much of an actor when making commercials and other promotional appearances — “I guess we can put that to bed,” he joked — his support of Speak Life allowed him to continue connected with theatre. He believes that the project’s approach to mental health, self-worth, and other critical issues is critical to assisting the next generation.
“I believe it’s very important for kids to be able to see this film and understand this message,” he added. “A lot of the time, you think you’re the only one going through anything.”
Last year, Simmons took even more effort to give back by establishing his own foundation. Taryn, he says, was important in helping him complete his idea of how he wants to leave his mark. The Justin Simmons Foundation is “committed to mentoring young people, promoting the benefits of youth athletics, supporting youth education, and other charity efforts,” according to its mission statement. It’s broad on purpose.
Simmons, who has two young girls, stated, “We want to contribute in any way we can with anything to do with our youth.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever met such a young man who recognized the power of one life, because his life will alter the lives of literally millions of youngsters,” Rebecca Burd added.
Despite a hard route leading up to middle school, Simmons followed in his father Victor’s footsteps and became a star in his own right, as they both played safety for Martin County High School. He was picked in the third round by the Broncos in 2016 after four years at Boston College, and he was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020.
Victor Simmons educated his kid about life as a Black man in America in addition to football. Simmons has talked about how his father telling him about his personal experiences with police mistreatment inspired him to fight for social change. George Floyd’s assassination by police in May 2020 served as a catalyst for him to speak out against racial injustice.
Simmons works with children at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club and fights inequality in other ways. He struck up a special bond with two 15-year-old girls, Najaray West and Nashara Ellerbee, who shared their perspectives on subjects like community violence, police brutality, and the prison system with him. They planned a March for Peace in the Montbello area last summer to bring good change to one of Denver’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The celebration was attended by Simmons and some of his teammates.
In a Broncos video report of the incident, Najaray said, “I feel like every time we turn on the news, we hear, ‘Oh, there was a gunshot in Montbello,’ or ‘Oh, there were adolescents aggressively going at a fight, stabbing each other.” “I’ve heard nothing but bad things about Montbello, so it was nice to start here; this is where we were born and raised, and it feels amazing to be out here.”
The adolescents’ capacity to comprehend difficult issues and promote change in their community astounds Simmons. He is in a rare position to speak with Colorado Governor Jared Polis on mercy for inmates and to hear the voices of the youth whose communities these decisions affect.
“As adults, we definitely have our opinions,” he said, “but now we’re getting a backseat view of two adolescents who are in a not-so-great community and there’s simply continual conversation.” “The fact that they created their own peace march astounded me completely.’ Because at 15 years old, my mind was not in the right place to make changes. That’s where they are right now, and it’s only the beginning.”