Stories, laughs, tears and hugs were in abundance Monday night at Denton High School at the memorial service of football coach Martin Simmons, who died May 7 from a heart attack. He was 42.
There was a viewing followed by Mass on Saturday in Scott, Louisiana. On Monday, the family, friends and players were all in attendance in the auditorium at Denton High. After the memories were shared in the auditorium, everyone grabbed balloons and marched to the Denton football field, where they were released in his honor.
Simmons’ sister, Kendra Senegal, set up a majority of the arrangements, and she said she was touched by the support of the school and the community.
“It meant a lot to our family,” Senegal said. “We saw on social media that people were there [offering support], but to come out here and see the love that he had from others, the football players, the teammates and everything, it was great. We had his funeral on Saturday, but to come here and bring a final close to everything and see the legacy that they are going to carry on to remember him, that meant a lot to our family.”
Denton head coach Billy Miller led the way, telling stories from various moments of his and Simmons’ friendship over their past 30 years. The two went to middle school together, had been close ever since and worked together over the past two seasons at Denton.
Simmons was described as a fantastic friend, coach and teammate by the speakers in an emotional service. One after another, people who knew Simmons stepped in front of the large audience to tell their story and why he meant so much to them.
“The number of people that showed up tonight and the number of people that reached out on social media and in all the different sorts of communications, this was a great way to celebrate a great man tonight,” Miller said. “We saw so many old faces from the past, and it was a great testament to the man Martin was. He will be missed.”
Simmons was always on the football field. He was a force throughout his high school and college days, playing at Lewisville as a tight end and winning the state championship in 1993 before graduating with the class of 1995. He went on to play at Colorado as a guard before eventually getting into coaching.
Palestine, Oak Cliff and Denton were three of the high schools where he coached.
Everyone described him as a motivated and outgoing person off the field, and that translated to his coaching.
“He was always about encouragement,” Miller said. “He had a knack for finding the guys that needed the encouragement and lifting them up. There are people in this world who have that knack, and he was one of them, to just know when someone needed a helping hand.”
The big man with a big heart, as he was described by his peers, left a lasting mark on Denton, Lewisville and everywhere he went.
“He’s a big jokester, so we always had fun and always had a good time,” Senegal said. “Like they all said, he was a gentle giant with a big smile and always so kind. He was just a joy to be around.”