Simien, one of the top junior college safeties in the nation, didn't arrive at Louisville until late last summer but quickly earned a starting spot at strong safety. He didn't disappoint in his first two games, recording an interception in the season-opener against Indiana State followed by an eight tackle performance against Kentucky that included a forced fumble.
But Simien lacerated his kidney against the Wildcats, an injury that ended his season.
"When it happened I thought I just cracked my ribs," Simien said. "I couldn't breathe and I just thought I just got the air knocked out. So I came to the sideline and put on some extra gear, took a couple of pain pills and went back out there. But after the game I felt it and I knew something was wrong."
"For about five months I couldn't do nothing, they just said rest, lay down and eat," Simien said. "I lost about 30 pounds in the hospital so they just told me to eat and rest. A couple of months ago they let me ride a bike and now I've been running a little bit more and I'm getting back slowly but surely."
Simien said he's regained about 20 of the 30 pounds he lost after the injury.
"I haven't started lifting weights yet but I'm starting to get my [strength] back," Simien said.
Simien opened spring practice atop the depth chart at strong safety and said it's been great to get back on the field.
"It feels good," Simien said. "It's been a long time coming. I've been watching football for about six or seven months. I'm glad to be able to come back out here and play ball, at least watch it and learn. I love it."
Now that Louisville has put on the pads, Simien won't be involved in contact drills or scrimmages. He hopes to be cleared for a full return to action this summer.
"We're pushing for fall camp," said Simien. "Hopefully I can get back by summer camp and start working out with the team."
After starting strong last season, Simien is hopeful he can pick up where he left off making plays in the Louisville secondary. He's also glad he received a medical redshirt, giving him two more seasons before his eligibility expires.
"I've never had a season-ending injury," Simien said. "When it happened I was kind of down. I love playing ball. I'm glad I got my year back and I'm going to be able to play again. That's the biggest thing because people were telling me I might not play again. I know I'm going to be able to play again and be strength. I'm ready."
Though Simien wasn't in town to see Louisville finish last season with their worst record since 1997, he did watch most of the Cardinals games on television from his home in California. He's excited about the coaching change and ready to help turnaround the Louisville program.
"It's a new coach and a new season and I'm expecting big things," Simien said. "I'm ready to get back out there."