Roy Simmons, a former offensive lineman for the Giants and the Washington Redskins and one of only a handful of N.F.L. players to have said publicly that they were gay — all after their playing careers ended — died Thursday, February 20th, 2014 in his apartment in the Bronx, New York. He was 57.
Roy Franklin Simmons was born on Nov. 8, 1956, in Savannah, Ga., one of six siblings by several fathers. A star at Beach High School, he received scholarship offers from multiple colleges before deciding on Georgia Tech.
After the Giants drafted him, he brought several of his siblings to live with him in the New York metropolitan area, sometimes cooking their meals before he headed to practice.
Simmons lost his starting job with the Giants during the 1981 season and left the team by choice before the 1982 season. After working as a baggage handler at Kennedy Airport, he tried to return to the Giants in 1983 but did not make the team. The Redskins picked him up, and he played in the Super Bowl, which the Redskins lost to the Los Angeles Raiders, 38-9, in Tampa, Fla.
Simmons played one year in the United States Football League before leaving football in 1985.
He was in and out of drug treatment after leaving football. His brother said he believed that Simmons had received public assistance and financial help from the N.F.L., but that he struggled to get by and lived alone in the Bronx. Simmons sometimes volunteered at polling precincts in the Bronx on Election Days, his brother said.
In addition to his brother Gary, his survivors include his daughter, Kara Jackson; a sister, Katherine; three other brothers, Larry, Ricky and LaTawn; and a grandson. His mother, Norma, died several years ago.
Simmons, a born-again Christian, was the subject of a video profile made by the Christian Broadcasting Network focusing on his growing faith and his efforts to stay sober. The profile suggested that Simmons had come to believe that homosexuality was wrong, but his brother Gary said that was not the case.
“At no time has he ever shied away from being who he was,” Gary Simmons said of his brother’s later life. “Those who knew Roy know where he stood. Roy was a gay black man who came out of the South.”
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