David Simmons of the Panthers beats the tackle of Billy Slater of the Storm to score a try during the round nine NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Centrebet Stadium on May 12, 2013 in Penrith, Australia.
David Simmons of the Panthers beats the tackle of Billy Slater of the Storm to score a try during the round nine NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Centrebet Stadium on May 12, 2013 in Penrith, Australia. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

Simmons finds keeping the faith helps him succeed on field

SURE, Panthers winger David Simmons has footy heroes.

But the people he really idolises include influential deceased figures such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther and 18th century intellect Jonathan Edwards.

Simmons is a keen student of theology at Moore College - a tertiary education centre in Sydney that focuses on preparing people for ministry and mission work.

The 28-year-old is a proud Christian and not afraid to profess his faith in God, despite playing a rough-and-tumble sport such as rugby league.

"Rugby league's just a taxing sport to prepare for mentally, so praying before games helps me in that regard," Simmons said.

The story of Bonhoeffer's fierce struggles against the atrocities of the Nazi regime, before being executed by hanging in April, 1945, just 23 days before the German surrender, had a profound impact on Simmons.

"I thought what he did was pretty full-on - to voice strong Christian values during war time, and to use the war as a vehicle to promote religion," he said.

The in-form Panthers flyer, with eight tries so far in 2013, said he believed the NRL was ticking plenty of boxes when it came to tolerating other cultures and nationalities.

"You look at the way the competition is promoting its Indigenous Round, All Stars game and Pacific Islands Tests, and it's doing a good job," he said.

Simmons has his own pre and post-game prayer rituals that prevent him from getting too disappointed in a bad game or, at the moment, carried away with his hot form streak.

"They help keep me level-headed. I pray to God that a win or loss won't change who I am," he said.

"I also talk to other Christians in the NRL like Tim Mannah, Jarryd Hayne, Joe Galavao and Joseph Paulo. I like to hear about their experiences."

Simmons said he has enjoyed first-year subjects learning about Jesus, the apostles and the Ancient Greek language.
He said teammates and opponents respected the fact he was a keen theology student.
"It's been a good challenge for me. It's not hard (studying religion and playing rugby league)," he said.
"Not much sledging happens on the field these days."
Simmons said he would like to work as a chaplain or teach at a Christian school after he finished his rugby league career.


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