By Greg Arias
Football and life are emotional endeavors, and on Friday those of us in the Tennessee Titans press corp were introduced to the rawest of emotions when Jeffery Simmons stepped in front of the cameras and microphones at St. Thomas Sports Park for the first time.
In 2016, Simmons was involved in an altercation that ended with him striking a female. It was all caught on video, and it was the first thing shown by ESPN following his selection by the Titans with the 19th pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
To his credit, Simmons was asked about and answered all questions in a conference call with local media following his selection. It was surely an emotional night, being drafted into the NFL in the first round and then being forced to relive possibly the worst moment of your young life for a group of total strangers in a phone call.
That would not be the last emotional moment for Simmons. That came Friday.
In a room full of strangers, flanked by Titans controlling owner Amy Adams-Strunk, general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel and supported by his mom and two sisters, Simmons listened to them explain why they took a chance on a player with such a terrible incident in his past.
Both Robinson and Vrabel commented, but it was Adams Strunk’s comments that brought out the emotions in Simmons.
“Jon (Robinson) and Mike (Vrabel) came to me months ago, and we discussed the incident. We watched the video together. It begins with trust from Mike and Jon that I was able to get comfortable. But, they were both very respectful that I needed to be comfortable, because at the end of the day, I have the final decision. It was a process. But, it did not take me long to see that this young man had an incident when he was in high school. We all can look back at our lives in high school and wish we’d done things differently,” continued Strunk. “But, you can talk ‘I’m sorry,’ the best thing is that he’s lived the life of, ‘I’m truly sorry and I’m going to be a good man.’ So, that made it really easy for me to become comfortable with Jeffery (Simmons). We’re getting a great football player, that goes without saying. But, we’re getting a great man. Jon and Mike too – especially our locker room is so important. We only have good men in there, and this young man is a good man.”
“I said yes, because Jon (Robinson) wanted to make sure that I knew all of the facts and knew what had happened. We’re so pleased to have him, and Nashville is going to really be pleased with what they see this next year, not only as a football player, but when he’s out in the community, because that’s important to him,” concluded Strunk. We’re a nation that gives second chances, and this young man Jeffery Simmons, he deserves that second chance.”
Hearing the words of support from his new team’s owner brought visible emotion and tears to Simmons.
Those weren’t fake tears, but real and raw emotion from a young man who made a terrible mistake and has spent his life since answering and trying to atone for his actions.
Domestic abuse and physical assault are serious matters that should never be taken lightly because someone can play the game of football. We hear how the NFL and team owners turn a blind eye if a player can help them win. This, however, is different.
Adams Strunk is one of the few ever female owners to run an NFL franchise, and her satisfaction and approval of the selection of Simmons should speak volumes.
In fact, in her four years presiding over the Titans during the draft, this is the first time that the Titans have selected a player with a troubled past under her watch. That alone should ease the minds of those who are upset with the move.
Asked about his emotions in the moment, Simmons was quick to respond.
“You know, coming from a woman, I made that mistake, I regret it, said a tearful Simmons. “Just to hear her say that, I’m grateful. The key word she said was trust, and I’m telling her in front of you guys that she can trust me, and I won’t let her down. I’m just grateful.”
Simmons said many things, but the comment about being a father stood out the most and came early in the press conference.
“You live for more than what you were living for, and me personally, I have motivation,” said Simmons. ”Now I have another motivation, you know because I’m not just living for Jeffery, I’m living for Little Jeffery. It’s like, every day when I wake up, I’ve got to get better for him, (his son) I got to get better for him because I want to be a role model for my son. That’s what I’m living for now.”
Welcome to Nashville Jeffrey, the ball’s in your court.