NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk on Friday defended the team's decision to draft defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, calling him a "great man" who has learned from the 2016 assault case that has triggered some criticism of Tennessee's first-round pick.
Simmons was moved to tears as Strunk addressed the aftermath of the March 2016 case -- in which a 17-year-old Simmons was caught on video striking a woman who was fighting his sister -- and vouched for his character. Simmons pleaded no contest to simple assault and was allowed to enroll at Mississippi State, where he was suspended for one game. He has repeatedly expressed remorse for what happened and gratefulness for getting a second chance with the Bulldogs.
Strunk said she watched the graphic video but still felt comfortable signing off on the team's selection.
"We discussed the incident and watched the video together," she said. "It begins with trust from Mike [Vrabel, the Titans head coach] and Jon [Robinson, the Titans general manager]. I needed to be comfortable because at the end of the day I had the final decisions. It didn't take me long to see that this young man had an incident in high school. We all can look back on our lives in high school and wish we had done things differently."
Robinson and the Titans conducted extensive interviews with Simmons and people at Mississippi State to better grasp the defensive tackle's character, and as a group decided he deserved a second chance. Strunk pointed to Nashville as a place that gives people second chances.
"The best thing is he's lived the life of, 'I am truly sorry and I'm going to be a good man.' That made it easy for me to become comfortable with Jeffery," she said. "We are getting a great football player, that goes without saying, but we are getting a great man. Our locker room is so important. We only have good men in there and this young man is a good man."
Simmons was visibly emotional as Strunk vouched for his character.
"I made a mistake and I regret it," he said at the introductory news conference. "To hear her say all of that, I am grateful. The key word she said was trust. I tell her in front of you guys that she can trust me. I won't let her down or either one of these guys [Robinson or Vrabel] down. I am grateful."
Simmons was considered a top-five draft prospect this past fall, but his stock dropped due to a combination of the 2016 assault case and a torn ACL suffered while training after the season.
Although he isn't likely to be on the active roster when the season starts, the team expects him to have a significant impact in the future.
Defensive end Brent Urban, whom the Titans signed Friday, should pay more immediate dividends. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound free agent previously played for Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees in Baltimore.