Daily Sports Smile: Denver Broncos' Justin Simmons buys championship rings for alma mater
Justin Simmons was late to the Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 party by just a couple of months. So the 2016 third-round draft pick does not have a championship ring.
When his alma mater, the Martin County Tigers, won the 6A high school state basketball championship in Florida this spring, Simmons wanted to make sure the team got all the rewards of being a champion. The Pro Bowl cornerback footed the bill to buy a set of championship rings for the team, which won its first title since 1979.
"We were just like, 'How cool would it be to get these guys something (in honor of an event) that hasn't been done at our school for a while now, to win a state championship?'" Simmons told the Denver Broncos' team website.
The Tigers met in June to have a team dinner and receive their rings. Mark Cowley, Martin County's former athletic director, said that Simmons purchasing the mementos saved the public school "a bunch of money."
Beyond the practical aspect, the student-athletes saw the rings as validation for their season.
"We knew it was our last time together as a team," Ryan Davis, who was named 6A Player of the Year after a stellar senior year, said. "… It was just a special moment to cap off the season. … It just showed all the work finally paid off with the rings."
"That's a lifelong memory that they're going to be able to share with their grandkids," head coach John Leon said. "… The rings mean just a place in history, and the fact that Justin did that for us definitely just adds to the family environment that we have here — community."
Simmons, who averaged a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in his senior year of high school basketball, was the only player in Broncos' history to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee for three consecutive years. He works closely with the Boys & Girls Club of Denver and has advocated for more awareness of social justice issues.
"It's a cool thing that he did," Leon added, "but he's just such a bigger person than buying our team rings."