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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Gamecocks' Shaw is the ultimate throwback

By Chris Low

Connor Shaw might not be the perfect quarterback, but he’s pretty close to being the perfect quarterback for Steve Spurrier.

Let’s face it. Playing quarterback for the Head Ball Coach isn’t for everybody.

But in Shaw, Spurrier has found the ultimate throwback.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior is consumed with one thing -- winning.

Connor Shaw
Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw fits into coach Steve Spurrier's system quite well.
He doesn’t care how many times Spurrier lights into him on the practice field. He doesn’t care how many bumps, bruises (or hairline fractures) he has to endure. He doesn’t care whether he throws it one time or 41 times.

He cares only about his team being ahead on the scoreboard when the game ends.

It’s why South Carolina co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Shawn Elliott says Shaw’s will to win is unlike anything he’s ever seen.

It’s why Shaw’s teammates swear by him, and it’s why Spurrier doesn’t swear nearly as much these days when watching his quarterback go out there and do exactly what he’s coached to do.

Go ahead and insert your Stephen Garcia references here.

But this isn’t about beating up on Garcia. It’s more about pointing out that special quarterbacks don’t always come in prototypical packages.

Shaw doesn’t have ideal size. He doesn’t have an NFL arm, and he didn’t arrive in Columbia as one of those five-star, can’t-miss prospects.

What he does have is a five-star heart to go along with five-star smarts and a five-star work ethic. Throw in excellent speed and the kind of courage you’d find in a “True Grit” movie, and you’ve got a quarterback who has been a perfect fit for Spurrier and the Gamecocks.

In a 31-10 rout of Missouri, Shaw completed 20 straight passes and finished 20-of-21 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an 80-yard touchdown run called back because of a bogus clipping penalty.

Never mind that he has a hairline fracture in his right (throwing) shoulder, an injury suffered in the opener against Vanderbilt. Even for Shaw, the pain was intense enough that he couldn’t play in the second game against East Carolina, and he played some during the third week against UAB before taking another lick on the shoulder and leaving the game.

The doctors have cleared him to play and said it’s an injury that won’t get any worse if he continues to play. It all comes down to Shaw being able to manage the pain.

He said the pain last week against Missouri wasn’t a problem, although he said it’s usually at its worst right before he goes to bed.

His teammates had already seen him come back from the initial injury at Vanderbilt and lead the Gamecocks on a game-winning drive in Nashville.

They saw him do everything in his power to get back onto the field this week and then turn in a record performance.

“You can’t really ask for a much better game,” South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders said. “He was calm back there, kept his poise and ran the offense like we expect him to do. I’m just real proud of his play coming back off those injuries.”

He should be, because it’s the kind of play that will keep the Gamecocks right in the middle of the SEC championship race.

Shaw’s not going to complete 20-of-21 passes every game, but he’s going to use the people around him. He’s going to throw to his tight ends, throw to his running backs and take his shots down the field when teams play press coverage.

And, yes, he’s still going to run.

He’s not taking on as many defenders now and instead getting down when he can. But when the Gamecocks need a play or need the tough yards, Shaw isn’t going to back down.

It’s just not in his DNA to do so.

Shaw, the son of a high school coach, also understands that you never fully arrive.

The more success he has, the harder he’s going to work ... and the harder Spurrier will ride him.

That’s just the way it is when you play quarterback for the Head Ball Coach, and Shaw wouldn’t have it any other way.