When top-ranked Alabama rolls into Williams-Brice Stadium today (Saturday, Oct. 9), expect the true freshman quarterback Connor Shaw to be ready when head coach Steve Spurrier makes the call.
ESPN College Gameday will air from Columbia for the SEC matchup between the top-ranked Crimson Tide and the 19th-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
“They’re pretty much No. 1 in every category,” Shaw said.
Despite being a 13-point underdog, Shaw likes the Gamecocks’ chances when the ball is kicked off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s capable of happening,” Shaw said about a win vs. Alabama. “(Dont’a) Hightower is the one player on film who stands out on their defense.”
A win vs. Alabama will not be as shocking as the thought of a highly-recruited quarterback from Georgia leaving Bulldog country to play for an SEC-rival like the University of South Carolina.
However, it was not a big surprise to the Shaw family when Connor decided to leave his home state to play football in South Carolina’s capital city.
Connor’s decision to leave his home state was influenced heavily by one particular ball coach.
“I was called out of class and I thought it was going be just Coach (G.A.) Mangus (USC’s quarterback’s coach),” Connor recalled, “but when I opened the door it was Coach (Steve) Spurrier, Coach Mangus, Coach (Shane) Beamer (recruiting coordinator) and Coach Lorenzo Ward (defensive coordinator).”
Spurrier’s presence on that January 2009 day stunned the future quarterback.
“When I saw him I was shocked and lost for words,” Connor said.
Connor grew up as a “huge” Florida Gator fan.
“My room was colored in orange and blue,” Connor explained.
He pointed out his decision to root for Florida was influenced by his desire to be different in Georgia Bulldogs country and his appreciation for Spurrier.
When Spurrier first visited Flowery Branch, he told Connor he heard he grew up a Florida fan.
“No, coach,” Connor said. “I grew up a Spurrier fan.”
Spurrier chuckled at Connor’s quick clarification, according to Connor.
Spurrier is best known for his ability to groom collegiate quarterbacks and his willingness to use a two-quarterback system.
When asked about how it is to be one of the quarterbacks in Spurrier’s two-quarterback system, Connor said the competition makes him better.
“It can get tough, if you let it. It’s important to not let it phase you. Stephen’s our quarterback...It’s situational whether or not I go in,” he said.
Every game, Connor has his helmet on and stands ready for the call at Coach Mangus’ side.
Connor received the nod in the second half at Auburn after Garcia fumbled, setting up Auburn’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“I was prepared, but I wasn’t warm. I hadn’t thrown any passes since pre-game, but mentally I was ready,” Connor said about the Auburn game.
He played at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia. His dad — Lee — was the Falcons head coach.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. As a player and a person it was great to have him as a head coach,” Connor said.
Jaybo — Connor’s older brother — was the Flowery Branch quarterback for four years prior to Connor’s reign. Connor was a wide receiver and caught more than 1,200 yards his sophomore year. His brother’s graduation left the quarterback position open and Connor picked up where Jaybo left off.
The Shaw family is familiar with collegiate athletics.
Connor downplays the big deal that one, let alone two brothers signed with Division I-A schools out of high school. Jaybo signed with Georgia Tech and Connor signed with the University of South Carolina at its 2009 Spring game.
“It’s pretty cool,” Connor said about he and his brother quarterbacking on Saturdays. “We dreamed of playing college football since we were little.”
Jaybo transferred to Georgia Southern this season and as the starting quarterback he has led the Eagles to a 4-1 start. Georgia Southern hosts SoCon opponent Wofford Terriers today (Saturday, Oct. 9). The Eagles offense scores an average of 34 points per game and Jaybo has yet to throw an interception this season.
Jaybo and Connor’s bond is one that goes deeper than blood.
“We are best friends,” Connor said about he and his brother. “If I need any advice or have any questions about game planning, I can call him.”
As the Gamecocks prepared for their second game this year vs. Georgia, Connor knew exactly who to call and who better to call than someone who played against the Bulldogs 11 months earlier.
Both Shaws scored a touchdown in their collegiate debut. Jaybo rushed nine times for 51 yards, had a long rush of 43 yards and scored his first career touchdown against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
Connor’s debut touchdown came on a 15-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass against Southern Miss in the Gamecocks season opener.
Anna Kate — Connor’s younger sister — is Flowery Branch High’s No. 1 singles player and was a playoff contender last year as a freshman.
“Tennis will be her ticket,” Connor said in Wednesday’s interview.
Lee was going to play at Clemson but an injury changed his decision and he returned punts for Western Carolina.
“Ironically, he (Lee) played against South Carolina when Sterling Sharpe played for them,” Connor said.
Connor wears No. 14 in honor of his dad and he has worn the same number since his freshman year.
Dawn — the mother of the three Shaw athletes — also played basketball collegiately at North Georgia.
Just as his family influenced his competitive nature and spirit to be the best, Connor offers advice for young quarterbacks aspiring to make it where he is.
“Do not focus and worry about my own game, but worry about how you can help the current team. When you do that then your time will come,” Connor advised.
Connor is optimistic about the Gamecocks’ chances this year and the years to come, especially with Marcus Lattimore in the backfield.
“To be a running back in the SEC is tough, but Marcus works really hard and understands the game. He’s physical,” Connor said. “We have a lot of youngsters and will be a force to be reckoned with in upcoming years.”