The Simon family has photos sprinkled around their house in East Tacoma, many of which depict Nick and LaShonte Simon’s three sons — Dionte, Jayden and Julien — smiling in uniform.
Nick, 42, has even had shirts made with photos of his sons across the front, which he often wears to their sporting events at Lincoln High School, where the boys have all etched their names in Abes lore.
Earlier this week, as the five Simons sat around their kitchen table, laughing and sparring about who the family’s most elite athlete is, Nick proudly wore the first Simon boys shirt he had made.
The white T-shirt, faded from many uses, shows the the three boys together, during the final season they all played for the Tacoma Panthers youth football organization.
“I was looking at some pictures of them the other day,” LaShonte said. “To think about them when they were so small, and blink and be where we are now, it’s just crazy.”
LaShonte, 43, grew up in Pasco. Her family moved to Tacoma during high school, where she graduated from Lincoln.
Nick is originally from Eudora, Arkansas, where much of his family still lives. Growing up in a military household, he moved to Tacoma as an 8-year-old, and eventually played football and basketball at Mount Tahoma.
He was a tight end and defensive end for the Thunderbirds’ football team, and a senior on the basketball team that won a Class 3A Narrows League title in 1995.
“Trying to keep Nick Simon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, from clearing out some space down low isn’t a simple task,” The News Tribune wrote that year.
Nick said he had Division I recruiting interest in football, but nothing panned out. He and LaShonte met at the old St. John Baptist Church during high school, and set off for Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana together.
They later married and started their family back in Tacoma, when Dionte, now 21, was born. Jayden, a 17-year-old senior at Lincoln, and Julien, a 16-year-old sophomore, followed.
Nick and LaShonte agree their life has been busy, loud and chaotic since — but in a good way.
“Even Dionte, when it was just him, he was a busy body and he would be twirling and twisting and flipping and flopping all over the place,” LaShonte said. “It’s been very loud, but it’s been fun.”
Beginning with Dionte, the three Simon brothers showed early interest and ability in athletics.
When Dionte was still a toddler, his mother said they bought him a Seattle Seahawks outfit that came with a gray plastic helmet equipped with a blue face guard.
“He slept in that thing. He ate in it. He shot basketball hoops in it, sweating, and would not take it off,” LaShonte said.
Her Twitter profile picture shows Dionte in that helmet.
“Jayden and Julien have asked her for months to change it,” said Nick, whose own profile picture shows his three sons clad in Abes gear.
But, LaShonte keeps the photo up, because it reminds her of where all of the Simon brothers’ success in athletics began.
“From the beginning, he was a lover of sports,” she said. “And once he got out there, he was a natural.”
So were his two younger brothers. Dionte remembers when the family moved to their East Tacoma home in 2010.
He trekked up to Verlo Playfield — which the Simons more affectionately remember as McKinley Park — to shoot hoops himself, when Jayden and Julien were still too young to go.
“When we first moved here, I was the only one really old enough to go up there to the park and play basketball,” Dionte said. “And then, when they were old enough, we would go up there, and just be there all day — winning the whole time.
“People would be so mad that we wouldn’t lose. And, if we did lose, they would like have a parade.”
Their abilities extended to the football field, too. The photo on Nick’s T-shirt represents a year all three of the Simon brothers’ youth football teams played in championship games.
“People would say they had these abilities … and as they got a little bit older, you could definitely see they were fairly talented for kids their age,” LaShonte said.
Dionte says the Simon brothers are so athletic because of their genes. Jayden says it’s skill. Julien says it’s hard work that has helped them all become incredibly decorated athletes on the court and the field.
Dionte was a first-team Associated Press all-state running back as a senior for the Abes, and a three-time 3A Narrows League defensive MVP as a guard for the basketball team by the time he graduated from Lincoln in 2016.
He went on to redshirt for a season at Utah State, and played running back for a season at Simon Fraser, before returning to Tacoma where he is now an assistant coach on the Abes’ varsity basketball team — coaching his two younger brothers.
“It’s been a fun first year,” he said.
Jayden, who signed with Colorado last week, and is the first Pac-12-bound football player to come out of Lincoln in four years, was an honorable mention AP all-state pick as an offensive and defensive lineman as a senior.
He also averages close to a double-double on the basketball court.
And Julien, a varsity football and basketball starter as a sophomore, is considered the No. 45 football recruit in the nation in the 2021 class, and has offers from nine Division I schools.
But, the three boys have different ideas about who is the most talented between them, and each can discuss at length why he deserves the distinction.
“I’m still better than him,” Julien said, recalling an interview with The News Tribune last summer, and gesturing toward Jayden.
“In what?” Jayden responded.
“Anything,” Julien said.
“You still haven’t proved it,” Jayden shot back. “You still don’t want to play me one-on-one in basketball. You know what happened last time.”
He was referring to a game years ago at the Lakewood YMCA, where he shut out his younger brother, 21-0. And the two haven’t played one-on-one since.
The three brothers can go around about who is superior in basketball, football, video games, eating chicken wings — anything.
They will concede certain things. Julien can jump the highest. Jayden is the best shooter in basketball. Dionte is the best sports strategist.
But, the playful arguments could go on for hours — because that’s how brothers interact.
“They’re pretty tight,” LaShonte said. “That’s one thing we’ve always said. We know they have each other’s back, and they’re going to take care of each other.”
And the three can point out what the others do well. Dionte says Jayden is very agile, and light on his feet. Jayden says Julien has natural ability as an athlete, and is always in the right spot at the right time. Julien says Dionte has unmatched athletic intelligence, and a keen ability to read opponents.
And though each brother is different, and each has their own strengths, Nick says there is an important commonality between the three.
“Their passion for the game,” Nick said. “All of them have the same passion for it — for both sports.”
“Yeah, I would agree with that,” LaShonte said.