Hundreds of people gathered at the softball field of the Noxubee County Sports Complex on a hot Saturday afternoon last month. Tents lined the outfield, vendors selling their wares near the fence. Under a large black tent, NFL defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons took photos and greeted local elected officials. A group of children waited anxiously on the outskirts to take a picture with the hometown hero. He noticed them and beckoned them in before smiling for more photos.
The 2016 graduate of Noxubee County High School hosted the county’s first Jeffery Simmons Community Fun Day on July 1, 2023. The event included bounce houses and water slides for the children, competitive events, musical performances and a fireworks show. The festival was the first of its kind that the Tennessee Titan has sponsored.
“I wanted to bring something back to my community,” Simmons said at the event. “This is where it started. I went to the same head start, elementary, middle school and high school as the young kids that came out and participated today. I think it’s about me letting them know that no matter where you come from, everyone can make it.”
Simmons has been committed to giving back to the places in Mississippi that left their influence on his life. He financed the renovation of the Noxubee County High School fieldhouse, providing new weights and upgrades to the facility, which led to Noxubee County High School naming a building after him. The Mississippi State standout also donated a turf field to the Starkville Sportsplex.
The athlete also sponsors the Jeffery Simmons Scholarship Fund for families experiencing financial hardship. It offers academic scholarships for both Starkville and Noxubee County residents and community-based scholarships open to everyone.
Exactly one week after the community fun day he sponsored, Simmons was back in the Golden Triangle hosting a free football camp. Each year, he returns to Starkville and the field named in his honor to teach football fundamentals to hundreds of children. Former MSU bulldogs JT Gray, New Orleans Saints safety, and Elton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, joined Simmons to instruct the up-and-comers.
“I’m blessed. I’m in a situation now, especially financially (to give back),” Simmons said. “A lot of people have that stereotype that guys just forget where they come from and never give back. This is what made me. I grew up here and went to college in Starkville. This is where my heart is. My heart is in our community. My heart is giving back to all the people who I grew up with.”
Macon City Mayor Buzz McGuire commended Simmon’s work in the area while presenting him with the key to the city.
“If you watched him play in high school, you could tell he was special. He was so dominant,” McGuire said. “The very first time he played at Mississippi State, the very first play was a strip sack, and he recovered the fumble against South Carolina.”
“Now to watch him every Sunday is special, but that’s not what makes him the most special,” he added. “What makes him the most special is his heart and the fact that he’s willing to come back here to this community and give back to this community. And for that we are very, very, very grateful.”
Simmons is very vocal about his childhood and the struggles his family faced as his mother raised five children alone. He credits his desire to be influential in the lives of youths to that knowledge and experience. The Simmons Give Em A Reason Foundation focuses on empowering young people through sports.
“That’s my message to them: If I can do it, why not you?” Simmons said. “I think when I talk about our youth getting out of the streets, staying out of the streets and staying in school, that’s what I want to see when I come back. It’s about me letting them know that no matter where you come from, everyone can make it. I mentor to these kids to never let anyone tell you can’t do it.”
The Tennessee Titans picked Simmons 19th overall in the 2019. This year, he signed a four-year contract extension worth a reported $94 million.