Randy Shannon was born and raised in Liberty City — a 10 minute drive south (give or take) from the neighborhood where Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris lived and went to high school.
Shannon knows what it’s like to live in that area of Miami. There’s poverty, drug abuse and random, senseless acts of violence.
Last week, the Harris family felt the brunt of that senseless violence when Treon’s cousin, Richard Hallman was shot and killed last Tuesday. Harris did not practice on Wednesday and returned home to be with his family as well as attend the funeral while the Gators held their first scrimmage on Saturday.
The outpouring of sympathy on social media was prevalent and the coaching staff, undoubtedly, sympathized with Harris but no coach on staff can empathize with Harris like Shannon.
Shannon’s father was murdered when he was just three years old. He lost two brothers and a sister to AIDS when he was young. Shannon knows the streets where Harris grew up, he knows where Hallman was the night he was murdered. He’s walked those streets, he’s lived that life.
“We talked a lot,” Shannon said of how he approached the situation with Harris. “Knowing Treon’s family, personally, knowing what he’s been through and you talk to them, communicate to them but you also don’t make him do anything but you try to make him feel more relief than just the anger.”
Of course there is anger. A 16-year old boy’s life was ended without rhyme now reason. Harris has every right to be angry, to demand answers as to why this happened, how did this happen?
Shannon wanted to change that. He’s been in the same situation as Harris is in now and his past experiences can make a horrible situation easier, more comforting and maybe even easier to digest and grow from.
“You get him to understand that certain things in life are tough but you’ve got to always keep moving forward because you have goals in life,” Shannon said. “He has goals in life that he’s shared with me and things that he shared with the coaching staff, Coach Nuss and things like that.”
Harris left his family over the weekend to return to Gainesville. He participated in practice for the first time in almost a week and looked sharp throwing the football. The loss of his cousin, his friend is still on his mind and likely will be for the rest of his life. Shannon and the rest of the coaching staff just want to guide Harris and show him that tragedy will happen in life but the way you respond to it and the way you move forward after it is the most important thing.
“We’re there for him. We’re his family, extended family up in Gainesville and he’s got his family back down in Miami,” said Shannon. “We’re happy that he’s back but like any process we’re going to get him through this process being away from home.”