When it comes to Buffalo, it's not hard to see why the Western New York area earned the nickname, "the City of Good Neighbors." For locals Cedric Holloway and Robert "Bob" Simmons the slogan is one that they've dedicated their lives to upholding. Advocates for the region that they proudly call home, Holloway, who spent 32 years with the Buffalo Police Department, and Simmons, an Orchard Park police officer since 2001, are well-respected for their tireless efforts. As a token of appreciation, Holloway and Simmons were each presented with a pair of tickets to this year's Super Bowl in Miami.
During his time serving and protecting the community, Holloway was promoted to the Commander of the Buffalo Police SWAT Team. Although he recently retired, his work is not done.
"I still do a lot of mentoring that I've been doing for tons of years actually," Holloway said. "[I'm] still putting on community events at the original home of the Bills."
To thank the city champion, Holloway was brought to One Bills Drive, where he was given Super Bowl tickets by Bills Legends Jim Kelly and Steve Tasker.
"It was a great experience…It's nice to be recognized, but that's not what I do it for. I do it because it needs to be done," he said.
In addition to his work on the police force, Simmons is a school resource officer for the Baker Road school in Orchard Park and volunteers throughout the year with Orchard Park youth sports. A year-round commitment, Simmons dedicates himself to coaching baseball and basketball, which is how he met Lorenzo Alexander four years ago.
"Our boys are the same ages," Simmons said. "So, his Mason and my son Bobby are both nine. Then his Myles and my son Joey are both five.
"So, they just started playing in the Orchard Park Little Leagues together. At both age groups, I've always had the Alexander boys on my baseball team and they're on our youth basketball team. Right from the beginning, I just like to get all the dads involved to help be assistants or co-coaches and I just asked Lorenzo, 'Come on man, bring your shoes. You're going to help out.' We just became fast friends like that, and I guess the greatest thing about our Orchard Park youth sports programs is we've just become a big family where it's all the same dads and moms season after season. We go from flag football to basketball to baseball."
As they spent increasingly more time together, Simmons and Alexander developed a close bond – one that led the Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year to present his friend with tickets to the big game.
"That was amazing…It was a Tuesday, I believe – a Tuesday practice at the Orchard Park Boys and Girls Club," he said. "Let me just backtrack. Last year, when he was nominated for Man of the Year, he also had PR come to one of our practices to do some filming…So, I really didn't think anything of it when I saw some people there from the Bills again this year. For whatever reason, what caught we as strange was somebody carrying in his jersey to our practice. I'm like, 'Lorenzo wouldn't bring his jersey to a little league practice. What's going on here?' Then I saw Sean's [McDermott] wife Jamie show up and Manjanique's there. I'm starting to think something's going on. Then when Lorenzo started to talk; he started to talk about me. I couldn't believe it because I'm just a youth coach. I love doing it. It's my passion. For him to honor me, was pretty special."
As both Holloway and Simmons ventured to the Sunshine State, they each brought along someone near to their hearts. Holloway elected to bring his best friend Bert and Simmons brought his wife Stacey and children along for the adventure. While not together, the community leaders each enjoyed events like Super Bowl LIVE, the Super Bowl Experience and of course the grand finale – Super Bowl LIV.
Tap to view photos of Bills players, coaches and Legends on the scene in Miami for Super Bowl LIV.
"It was absolutely over the top," said Holloway. "Seeing all of the hustle and bustle connected with the Super Bowl, including logistics like the police and how they're setting up roadblocks and the…[Super Bowl] Experience that was quite an experience. It was the greatest. It was just interesting to see how they set things up. I've never seen them set up for the halftime show because I've been watching it on television. You don't see the people rushing the stages out and preparing the crowd and things of that nature. It was great."
Making the most out of the one-of-a-kind weekend, Simmons managed to reunite with his extended family, including his sister, brother-in-law, mom and the Alexanders while on the scene.
"Sunday, Manjanique and Lorenzo invited me and my wife out to lunch before the Super Bowl…," said Simmons. "Every day was great. First of all, him honoring me, I mean there are so many people that he works with in the community, it's so humbling. It's beyond words. This is a bucket list thing for anybody that follows any sports."
A trip they won't soon forget, Holloway and Simmons were grateful for the opportunity to represent the Bills in Miami.
"There were all kinds of fans, not that I expected for me to be the only hometown fan there, [but] there were a lot of folks there with their hometown paraphernalia…[on]," said Holloway. "Of course, I had a Bills hat on and there were a lot of Bills fans…that was an excellent experience."
"The best part's the game, obviously being there, the energy," said Simmons. "The game was a great game. Then, like I said, we've been friends for four years, so our kids hang out. They play sports. We hang out with them. Just getting to see them [was great]. You could tell that he's definitely admired by his peers and for him to be nominated for Walter Payton Man of the Year just speaks volumes to his character. I want to thank Preston Teague, [Sr. Director of Community Relations & Youth Football] and the Buffalo Bills for making this the trip of a lifetime!"