WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Some former South Florida and Treasure Coast football stars are among the 32 nominees for the NFL's most prestigious community service award.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons and Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins were nominated by their teams Thursday for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Brissett was a standout quarterback at William T. Dwyer Community High School in Palm Beach Gardens. He was a third-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2016.
"I cannot overstate the importance of Jacoby Brissett to this team," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "He is a leader, a special teammate and is highly respected by everyone in our organization. Simply put, he's played a significant role in our success both on and off the field. I'm so impressed with the job Jacoby has done addressing the needs of his community both in Indianapolis and in his hometown in Florida. His conviction, vision and action have made tangible changes and lasting impacts while influencing those around him to do the same."
Simmons, who was a star defensive back at Martin County High School, has played for the Broncos since he was drafted in the same round and year as Brissett.
During a Stuart protest in response to the death of George Floyd, the Port Salerno native preached unity and called for justice, not only for Floyd, but for all those whose lives have been cut short because of racism and hate.
"I'm sad we're here, but we need to make sure that we understand that we are fighting for equality, not superiority," Simmons said in May. "Make sure we understand that. All lives matter when black lives matter."
Atkins helped lead St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale to back-to-back state championship appearances before being selected by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
The Pembroke Pines native donated $100,000 to a food bank during the coronavirus crisis, providing 300,000 meals to families in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
"As an NFL player, I understand the importance of using my platform to positively impact the lives of others," Atkins said. "It has been an honor to be able to give back to others, and some of the most meaningful moments of my career have been moments spent in the community."
The winner will be announced on the eve of Super Bowl LV in Tampa.