His next stop? College football.
When former Mainland defensive coordinator Travis Roland accepted the head coaching position at Flagler Palm Coast High School in December 2016, he had to (temporarily) leave behind a young, up-and-coming cornerback at Mainland.
Dennis Shorter started for the Buccaneers as a sophomore but made a name for himself well before that. As a freshman, he scored 10 touchdowns in three junior varsity game, saw playing time in multiple varsity games, and in Round 2 of the 2015 FHSAA Playoffs against Heritage, he forced and recovered a fumble in what was a 21-10 victory for the Buccaneers.
“He’s always been a gritty kid,” said Roland, who first met Shorter when Shorter played for the Daytona Buccaneers’ Pop Warner team. “I’ve seen him do special things his whole entire football career.”
When Roland first accepted the job at FPC, Shorter used to joke with his former coach that he was coming, too. But several months passed and what started out as playful banter turned into an idea. Shorter, who attended the Valdosta Hitting Camp with the Bulldogs that summer, decided to transfer to FPC.
"I've seen Dennis do special things his whole entire football career. The reason why he can do it in crunch time is because he goes hard all the time. Because he plays hard all the time, he never has to worry about forcing it to happen. He can do it when he wants to."
FPC head coach Travis Roland
He was matched up against the Bulldogs’ top receiver, Anfernee Brown, in his first practice. He didn’t allow a catch the whole day.
“As soon as I got here, I fell in love,” Shorter said. “The whole team treated me like family.”
After FPC won seven games the two previous seasons combined, Shorter was part of the Bulldogs’ first undefeated regular season in school history in 2017, blocking a field goal to preserve a double overtime win over Mandarin in the final game of the regular season.
The Bulldogs were arguably a better team in 2018, but finished with a 7-4 record and an early exit from the playoffs. Regardless, Shorter still displayed his knack for making big plays at the right time.
After blocking an extra point in the first quarter against Sandalwood on Sept. 28, he blocked a field goal in double overtime to keep the Bulldogs, who scored on the next drive, alive.
His last game was a 34-7 loss to No. 2 seed Winter Park in the first round of the playoffs — his four years of high school football gone in the blink of an eye.
The two years of success and clutch plays affirmed Shorter’s decision to follow his old coach to a team that had little experience with either at the time.
His main concern when he first arrived: Would he be noticed by college teams?
He always dreamed of playing college football. But prior to transferring to FPC, no schools were interested in his skills or potential.
But that’s since changed.
Shorter currently has 10 offers — a mix of Division I and Division I AA programs. He recently went on a visit to The Citadel and hosted an in-home visit with the team’s coaches.
He doesn’t know where he wants to go yet. The deciding factor will be where he can get the best education.
His family, however, is his driving force behind all his decisions. The well-being of his mother and two sisters is his fuel for getting a degree and going beyond that.
“I want my family to have the world,” Shorter said. “So I’m not stopping until they get it.”