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The Musical ‘- The Unbeaten

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Justin Simmons is a Pro Bowl goalie for the Denver Broncos and the highest paid player in his role in the NFL, but as a teenager he was vulnerable to what one in 5 students aged 12 to 18 lives: bullying.

It’s part of what motivates him to make an impact in the lives of young people today.

“One of the things that hurts me the most in society today is bullying,” said Simmons, who signed a four-year, $ 61 million contract with the Broncos in March, at The Undefeated, “and I was bullied when I was younger going from Virginia to South Florida just as I was entering college, so it was tough. “

In December, he was the first Broncos player to be nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award three times in a row, recognition of all the time and work he devotes to making an impact on the next generation. . One of the community service projects he works on and connects with because of his mission to end bullying with a message of empathy is Speak Life: The Musical. Founders Dan and Rebecca Burd started it in 2001 as a school touring program.

The Burds attend the same church as Simmons in his hometown of Stuart, Florida. The couple approached the soccer star and his wife, Taryn, in 2020 to see if they would be interested in funding a revamp of the show, which includes five new original songs and a refreshed storyline following the daily lives of the people. high school students guided by a concierge, who serves as a sort of fairy godfather.

The cast of Speak Life: The Musical.

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The Simmons family immediately purchased and funded the transformation of the musical into a school-screenable film with the goal of reaching 1 million students in 1,000 schools by 2022. The Burds have already received what ‘they estimate there are thousands of responses from principals who are amazed by the change of atmosphere in their schools.

“We knew that at some point this conversation would connect with whoever could afford to take that and do something bigger and better than we could have dreamed of, and achieve more. children than we could ever have done. dreamed, ”said Rebecca Burd. “When we sat down that night with Justin and Taryn and had that meal, that’s when we knew we had met this person.”

Simmons is a huge fan of musical theater and growing up was particularly inspired by a certain pop culture icon.

“I always wanted to be [High School Musical character] Troy Bolton, he was a star athlete in his school, so obviously [he’s in a] musical, right? He could sing, he could dance, he could do anything, ”he said.

Justin Simmons (right) and his wife Taryn (left) funded the transformation of Speak Life: The Musical in a film that can be shown in schools.

Speak Life Performing Arts Company

Although Simmons quickly found out from making commercials and other promotional appearances that he wasn’t much of an actor – “I think we can put this to bed,” he laughed – his support at Talk about life allows him to stay involved in the theater. He believes the project’s approach to mental health, self-esteem and other important topics is essential in helping the next generation.

“I think it’s so powerful for kids to be able to see this movie and see this message, because most of the time you think you’re the only one going through something,” he said.

Simmons took further steps to give back when he started his own foundation last year. He thanks Taryn for helping him complete the vision of how he wants to leave his legacy. The Justin Simmons Foundation’s mission statement is “dedicated to mentoring youth, promoting the benefits of youth sport, supporting youth education and other charitable initiatives.” It’s intentionally wide.

“We want to help in any way with anything to do with our youth,” said Simmons, who has two young daughters.

Rebecca Burd added: “I don’t know if I have ever met a man this young who understood the power that a life can have because his life will change the lives of millions of children.”

Despite the bumpy road to college, Simmons followed in his father’s footsteps Victor – they both played it safe at Martin County High School – and became a star in their own right. After four years at Boston College, he was drafted in 2016 in the third round by the Broncos and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020.

Besides football, Victor Simmons taught his son about the life of a black man in America. Simmons explained how his father told him about his own experiences of police abuse, which enabled him to seek social change. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May 2020 was a tipping point for him to speak out against racial injustice.

Simmons works with the kids at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club and tackles injustice more. He particularly bonded with two 15-year-old girls, Najaray West and Nashara Ellerbee, who shared their perspectives with him on issues such as community violence, police brutality and the prison system. They held a peace march last summer in the Montbello neighborhood to do something positive for one of Denver’s most underserved communities. Simmons and several of his teammates attended the event.

Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons speaks during a protest following the murder of George Floyd on June 6, 2020 in Denver.

Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images

“I feel like every time we listen to the news we hear, ‘Oh, there was a shooting in Montbello’, or ‘Oh, there were teenagers actively fighting, stabbing each other. “” Najaray said in a Broncos video report of the event. “I don’t hear anything good about Montbello so it was great to start in Montbello, that’s where we were born and raised, it feels good to be here.”

Simmons marvels at the ability of teens to understand complex issues and inspire change in their community. He has the unique position of being able to speak to Colorado Governor Jared Polis about granting clemency for prisoners and to hear the voices of young people whose communities affect those decisions.

“We obviously have our opinions as adults, but now we get a rear view of two teenagers who are honestly a not-so-great community and there’s just a dialogue going on,” he said. “The fact that they launched their own peace march blew me away. Because at 15, my head was definitely not in this state of mind for change. And that’s where they are, and that’s just the start.