NASHVILLE – Four years ago, after being selected by the Titans in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, an emotional Jeffery Simmons vowed to reward controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk for having faith in him.
Simmons, sitting two seats down from Strunk at his introductory press conference, tucked his head and shed tears when Strunk spoke about her trust in him while welcoming him into the organization.
Simmons, who was recovering from an ACL injury at the time, had faced questions following an off-field incident he was involved in back in high school. The well-publicized incident resulted in heavy scrutiny over the pick, but Strunk spoke about second chances, and her faith in Simmons.
"Coming from a woman," Simmons, fighting back tears, said of Strunk at the time. "I'll tell her in front of you guys that she can trust me. I won't let her down."
Strunk was involved in the process that led to the Titans selecting Simmons.
"We are getting a great football player, that goes without saying, but we are getting a great man," Strunk said in April of 2019. "We are a nation that gives second chances, and this young man, Jeffery Simmons, he deserved that second chance."
On Wednesday, the Titans officially awarded Simmons with a second contract.
The big defensive lineman signed his long-term contract extension before another emotional press conference when he once again thanked Strunk for believing in him.
Simmons said he exchanged texts with Strunk after the two sides agreed to terms.
"From day one I told Miss Amy that I would never let her down," Simmons said. "I texted Miss Amy after we came to an agreement, and I told her how much I appreciated her trusting in me from day one. What she sent back to me, she told me: 'You promised me that you would never let me down and you haven't.' And that right there, it hit something inside.
"To have a female owner, a lady owner, in the NFL to trust in you so much, from the adversity I went through on my journey to get here, it means so much to me. Miss Amy, I appreciate you so much."
Simmons has held up his end of the bargain since the Titans selected him with the 19th overall pick on the 2019 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State.
Simmons has been named to two Pro Bowls in four years, and since joining the Titans he ranks second on the team with 21 sacks, trailing only outside linebacker Harold Landry III (26.5). His career totals also include 196 tackles, 19 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
After missing the first six games of his rookie season due to a pre-draft injury, Simmons played in 56 of the team's last 60 games (54 starts). He was a team captain in each of the last two campaigns.
Simmons said he's grown on and off the field over the past four years.
"I know for a fact I have grown," Simmons said. "If you don't grow, especially as a player in this league. From year one, I am going into year five now, I don't think I'd be standing at this podium right now.
"As a man, I try to be better than I was. …. That's been my motto forever: Be better than I was yesterday, on the field and off the field. Of course, I feel like I have grown as a man, and as a player."