In 2009, the four-star recruit and Butkus Award High School finalist sat on the sidelines as a redshirt freshman. When Pete Carroll departed for Seattle, the head coach took Simmons' position coach Ken Norton with him. Soon, Joe Barry would be calling the shots as the Trojans' newest linebackers coach.
The following year, in 2010, Simmons played in just 3 games after having his appendix removed and then fighting a bout of mononucleosis.
A year later -- last season -- Simmons suffered a neck injury and was forced to sit out 10 of the Trojans' 12 games. In the offseason, he saw Barry leave and Scottie Hazelton take his place.
As we approach the 2012 season, the soon-to-be redshirt junior has reason to be discouraged. His time at USC has been underwhelming. Coaching changes have prevented Simmons from consistency. And a slew of unfortunate events has hindered his production.
But instead of being discouraged or out of shape this offseason, Simmons has appeared healthy and fit.
More importantly, he is positive. Motivated, even.
"I've always been ready to work, even with the injury," he said. "You got to stay positive. I've been positive the whole time. I feel blessed. I'm grateful just to be back."
A lot of players who don't see the field much might view a new coach as a new opportunity to prove him or her self. For Simmons, he sees Hazelton -- his third coach in three years -- as just another mentor that can help him improve.
"Having a new coach is just great in all aspects," he said. "I'm not really thinking about fresh starts or nothing, I'm just more so happy to have a coach."
The strongside linebacker doesn't call attention to himself or ask for pity. To an outsider, he looks like a skilled listener and observer. His injury last year surely forced him into that role, but on his way to full health, he's ready to take what he learned and put it on the field.
Whether he plays or not is uncertain. But what isn't is Simmons' will. One of a slew of linebackers full on talent, Simmons sees the steep competition with a never-faltering optimism.
"It's always good to have competition. Just to have us working against each other, to constantly move," he said. "Because we all motivate each other. It isn't about spots as of right now, it's just about working.
"Us getting better each day, day by day. And that's all we're thinking about."
At least that what Simmons thinks about. And he hopes that long-lasting mental toughness will allow him to see the field someday.
But since he's been waiting a while, he probably hopes that day comes sooner.
Rather than never.