At the Pro Bowl, Jeffery Simmons Vows to Keep Rewarding the Titans for Putting Their Trust in Him

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LAS VEGAS – Tears ran down the face of big Jeffery Simmons at his introductory press conference with the Titans.

It was April of 2019, and Simmons, sitting two seats down from Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, tucked his head and got emotional when Strunk spoke about her faith in him while welcoming him into the organization.

The Titans had taken the defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft after questions about his health, and character, were raised during the pre-draft process.

At the time, Simmons vowed to reward the Titans – and Strunk.

Three years later, Simmons has developed into one of the NFL's best defensive linemen.

On Thursday at the Pro Bowl, Simmons recalled that day while thinking about what's transpired since.

"I'll never forget that," Simmons said before practice. "I think it was all about me proving to myself – and to the Titans as well – that I am who I am. I am not faking anything – I wasn't faking it back then. I was thankful then, and I am thankful for everything now.

"I have only been in Nashville for three years, and I feel like I have a lot more to prove to the city. I feel like I am just getting started, on the team, and in the community. There's a lot more that I want to do."

Simmons thanked Titans General Manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel for believing in him back then.

And he thanked Strunk, someone he's developed a nice relationship with since.

"I am always exchanging texts with Miss Amy," Simmons said. "We keep up with each other, even on holidays, wishing each other 'Merry Christmas', whatever it might be. I always tell her I appreciate her for trusting in me. When I first got drafted by the Titans I promised her that I was going to be a guy she could trust, and I'm grateful she and the Titans took a chance on me."

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The Titans have been rewarded.

In his first three NFL seasons, Simmons has 13.5 sacks and 92 quarterback pressures.

In 2021, Simmons recorded a career-best 8.5 sacks, and he led the Titans with 58 quarterback pressures. Simmons also ranked second on the squad with 12 tackles for loss.

"Jeffery had an outstanding season, just a powerful force from the inside," Robinson said of Simmons earlier this week. "He developed a pretty cool pass rush move that he certainly benefited from. And he's really grown, has become a great leader. I'm really proud of him."

Simmons, who led or tied for the team lead in sacks four times in 2021, also led or tied for the team lead in quarterback pressures eight times in 2021.

Simmons registered a career-high three sacks at the L.A. Rams on November 7.

Simmons knows how special it is to be in a Pro Bowl.

He said former Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who went to five Pro Bowls during his playing days with the team, was one of the first people to text him when he was named a Pro Bowler earlier this week. Simmons was named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones, who is unable to participate due to injury.

Casey turned down two Pro Bowl invitations earlier in his career.

"Jurrell congratulated me, and told me how special it is, and to enjoy it with my family," Simmons said. "Jurrell is one of those guys I always looked up to, especially when I first got into the league. Not a lot of people are fortunate to have a vet take a young guy under his wings and lead them up until now like he's done with me. Jurrell always encourages me, and supports me, and that's a blessing."

Simmons brought a lot of his family to Las Vegas for Pro Bowl week – his mom, his uncle, and his two sisters, among others.

He's enjoying it, while also thinking about what's next.

"I am grateful, just to be at my first Pro Bowl," Simmons said. "When I got that call from J. Rob, that I was going to the Pro Bowl, I almost wanted to shed a tear. To be able to experience this with my family, it means a lot.

"But I am motivated for more. After we lost (to the Bengals) and the season ended, I told myself there's a lot I need to do to improve my game. And I trust the coaches are going to put me in the right situation to help me grow as a player. I am eager to see how much better I can be in Year 4."

See the Top Images from Titans players practicing for the Pro Bowl on Thursday in Las Vegas. (Tennessee Titans)

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