John Shorter, Lake Highlands High School Class of ’08

Photo by Benjamin Hager

In Lake Highlands’ have-or-have-not landscape, John Shorter and his family were “definitely the have-nots,” says his father, John Simien.

That never stopped Simien and his wife Retta from feeding scores of drop-ins from around their apartment complex. “We don’t have a lot,” Retta says, “but we have food and we love to cook.”

That warmth, generosity and reliability might have played a large role in the success Shorter had during his years at Lake Highlands High School, where he was on the starting lineup his sophomore, junior and senior years, was named a top 100 area prospect by the Dallas Morning News, was named to the Super List on texasfootball.com, earned first team all-district as safety and was an all-district 9-5A selection as a junior, all while performing well academically.

Inside Lake Highlands’ dense apartment communities lies the area’s most concentrated crime, drug and violence problems, police have said. But his home was always a safe place for young people, Shorter says.

Some of Shorter’s friends took a different path — drugs, gangs. “It was an easy way out for some kids in our neighborhood,” he says. Physically, the guy is tough, but he gets a little teary eyed when he talks about his parents. “They supported me no matter what. My dad introduced me to football, gave me the discipline I needed … Mom was mom to all of my friends no matter what.”

When John graduates from the University of North Texas this month, he will be the first in his family to earn a college degree. His brother Desmond and sister Dominique also are following in his footsteps. Shorter’s post-high school years were bumpy at times. In college he went from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big one. “There were some ups and downs,” he says, and he had to work hard for playing time. “I had to keep striving, keep pushing,” he says.

The family has post-college hopes, too. Shorter’s life has revolved around football since age 6 — he played at Wallace Elementary and Lake Highlands Junior High and with Wildcats Select. So he will do his best to get drafted into a professional league. In fact, John Sr. consistently says “when he makes the league” rather than “if.” Whatever happens, the family agrees, he will have that college degree, and that means a world of opportunity.