When former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms fell in love with the sport of soccer as a child, he told himself that nothing was going to stop him. No doubt, that attitude helped him realize his dream of becoming a professional soccer player later in life.
But on Thursday, Simms, 31, was forced to draw the curtains on his nine-year MLS career after he revealed that the disease he'd privately battled since high school will prevent him from playing top-flight soccer any longer.
"I've never really talked about this because I always chose the mind over matter approach, but my health has gotten to a point where I can no longer do that," Simms said in a team release on Thursday. "When I was a freshman in high school, we discovered that I suffered from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), the same kidney disease (that) Alonzo Mourning (has)."
According to the National Kidney Foundation and the NephCure Foundation, FSGS is described as a rare disease that attacks the kidney's filtering system (glomeruli) and causes serious scarring. However, many adults afflicted with the disease can achieve partial or complete remission with immune-suppressing medications.
Simms, who spent two seasons with the Revolution (2012-13), came to New England after a seven-year career with D.C. United, where he helped the squad win a U.S. Open Cup Championship and a pair of Supporters' Shields.
During his time in the nation's capital, the savvy defensive midfielder played 182 career games for D.C., a figure which ranks seventh all-time in club history. He scored three goals and added seven assists during his D.C. career, and became one of the most reliable players in the club's storied history.
In 2005, he was called up to the U.S. Men's National Team for a friendly against England. Although it was the only cap of his career, it was a remarkable accomplishment for a player who, not long before, was playing second-division soccer with the Richmond Kickers (USL).
After a successful run with United, Simms came to New England via the Re-Entry Process. He quickly became an important piece of a midfield that needed the calming presence Simms brought to the pitch. In 2012, he started all 29 games for New England, wearing the captain's armband for many of those matches, and became a fan favorite in the process.
"We're disappointed to see Clyde end his career, but want to wish him the best in the next stage of his life," Revolution general manager Michael Burns said in a statement on Thursday. "Clyde was a true professional in his time with us and was a model player for our squad to emulate."
Yet, while he may have looked like the picture of health on the pitch, Simms quietly fought FSGS behind the scenes. He knew that, eventually, he would no longer be able to outrun it. And that realization only became clearer during the 2013 season.
"When I started playing with D.C., my kidney function was around 50 percent," Simms said. "And (in) the last three years of my career, it has gotten down to about 20 percent."
With the disease catching up to him, Simms is stepping away from a sport that demands so much from its players.
"I made sure for as long as I could I would still fight for my dream, my passion," Simms said. "I was very lucky to have had such a great run, but now it's time to fight another battle."
The classy and widely respected midfielder also took a moment to recognize those who supported him along the way.
"Thank you to all the fans, teammates, and coaches that supported me and helped me along my journey," Simms said. "To the Richmond Kickers, D.C. United and the New England Revolution, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your families. I will always be a fan. And to my family and people closest to me, thank you for allowing me to follow my dream."
All told, Simms made 221 appearances (185 starts) while scoring three goals and adding nine assists during his nine seasons in MLS. And while FSGS may have prompted him to hang up his boots prematurely, there's no denying that Clyde Simms never let anything stop him -- not even a serious disease -- for quite a long time.