NASHVILLE – Jeffery Simmons had a lot of things on his mind when he stepped up to the podium on Wednesday.
Among his thoughts: "I'm going to try not to cry today."
Then the big defensive lineman looked at his mother, and the tears started streaming down his cheeks. At one point he paused for 12 seconds before gathering himself.
"My mom, single parent," Simmons said. "Just to see the journey we have been on as a family. It's crazy," Simmons said. "I think, man, from house to house, apartment to apartment. Sharing a bed with my brother. Now, we're good. … It's generational wealth, as we call it. It's who I do it for. Every day I wake up, I think about those hard times where I know my mom didn't feel like it. Sometimes I am hurting, but I think about my mom, having raised five kids on her own. For me to say, I don't want to do this. That's my motivation, my family."
Titans General Manager Ran Carthon, Coach Mike Vrabel and a big group of family members were on hand at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park on Wednesday for a press conference celebrating the long-term contract extension Simmons signed earlier in the day.
At the conclusion of the press conference, Simmons talked more about his mother, Brenda Bradley, and his upbringing.
Simmons said his mission since first stepping on the football field as a five-year-old – when he used to put on his shoulder pads and hit a big pear tree in the backyard – has always been to make his family proud.
And give them a better life.
"I didn't want to make too much eye contact with my mom today because I knew she'd be there crying, and then I'd cry, too," Simmons said with a smile. "But to think about that upbringing, and all the adversity we've been through. … I know she is proud of me."
Simmons said the family moved six or seven times when he was younger, including a move from Louisiana to Mississippi.
At most places, Simmons shared room with brother, and his two sisters also shared room. Simmons said his mom adopted his uncle's daughter, a cousin, who he also calls a sister.
With a household of five kids, Brenda Bradley had to work all kinds of jobs, from working at a convenience store to working at a prison. She did everything she could to make ends meet, Simmons said.
"But she never missed a birthday," Simmons said.
Simmons said he pulled weeds as a kid to make extra money, to keep her from having to pay for his football uniforms.
Not too long after signing his first NFL contract with the Titans in 2019, Simmons bought his mom a house in Spring Hill, Tennessee, so she could be close.
Now, after signing a mammoth deal with the Titans, the two-time Pro Bowler knows his family will be taken care of for years and years and years to come.
He's also now finally ready to reward himself – he plans to buy a new home, perhaps with a pool.
"I never picture myself wearing another color than two-tone blue, other than a gold jacket," Simmons said. "This is a great day. I hope I retire here, and I hope I can make this franchise happy."