In Clyde Simms, the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame welcomes a shining example of a strong individual who continues to persevere. From first being undrafted by the MLS after college, he ended up playing nine years in the league. And from dealing with the knowledge of a medical condition he has had and known about since high school, he has become an active spokesperson in the fight against it. We honor here an athlete and human being who is an inspiration in the field of hard knocks.
Simms grew up in Jamestown, NC, and played on the Jamestown Jammers club team that also featured William Hesmer (NC Soccer HOF 2014). Attending Southwest High in High Point, he would eventually follow fellow alumnus Eddie Pope (NC Soccer HOF 2000) into professional soccer. So the examples were certainly there for him. But the road would not be easy.
East Carolina University was Clyde’s collegiate choice (2000 – 2003), and there he certainly made an impact. He appeared in 72 games, attaining seven goals and seven assists, and became a four-year letter winner. Perhaps more telling, however, he was elected team captain for three of those years and became the only player at ECU to be all-conference every year that he played. But when Major League Soccer had its 2004 draft, Simms was not a part of it, so he took his skills to the Richmond Kickers in the A-League. There, though he would make an impression over 28 games, the advancement chances looked slim, until a fortuitous set of events occurred.
Simms would be called up as a replacement player during the 2005 USSF vs. Men’s National Team players conflict, and he wound up impressing so many people that he was asked to stay and train with the team. There would even be a National Team cap for an appearance against England in 2005. The rest, as one might say, is MLS history, for several clubs took notice. He would play seven years for D.C. United (2005 – 2011) and two for the New England Revolution (2012 and 2013). At D.C., he made 182 career appearances as a defensive midfielder and was vital in their being the best regular season team in 2006 and 2007. In 2008 he was a member of United’s U.S. Open Cup championship team and in 2010 was given the team’s MVP award. While with New England, he played 39 games, so that his final MLS statistics read as follows: 221 appearances with three goals and nine assists.
But there is more to tell. In February 2014, he announced that not only was he retiring from professional soccer but that he had also had a medical condition that he had known about for almost 20 years. Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is a kidney disease that has most notably struck several other professional athletes, in addition to Simms. Yet, as he notes, “People think it only happens to those who don’t take care of themselves. It is a silent killer…. It can happen to anyone.”
It would appear, then, that Clyde Simms has a new public platform, though for him it is a fight that has gone on for some time. The wrong thing to do, however, is to bet against him. He has proven himself in one big league already, and for that in itself we honor him in the NC Soccer Hall of Fame. Act two is a different game, certainly. But we should follow it closely, being the best teammates we can be.