in

The Legend of Connor Shaw

By Adam O’Daniel

The little old church lady walks up the brick steps on a cold and sunny late October Sunday morning in South Carolina. She’s dressed in dark slacks, checked coat and scarf. She clutches her pocketbook and Holy Bible. She smiles at the deacon holding the door and takes his hand. “That Connor Shaw,” she cracks. “Ain’t he somethin’?”

 

This is the legend of Connor Shaw.

Sundays are the Lord’s Day, surely, but there’s only one miracle on most Gamecock lips.

The South Carolina quarterback just hours before had led his team to victory from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road at No. 5 Missouri. 
 
Before this, he wasn’t known for much. Reliable, maybe. A tough kid. But Jadeveon Clowney was the draft pick. Johnny Manziel was the Heisman Trophy winner. Nobody cared who Shaw wanted to party with. He’s not even on Twitter!
 
He wasn’t supposed to play Saturday. Bad knee. Nasty stomach virus.
 
But Shaw told coaches before kickoff that he could try, if needed. Steve Spurrier left him on the bench. The Cocks, desperate for a win to stay alive in the SEC East division title race, thought they’d have a better chance with the gimpy Shaw on the sideline.
 
Then the Cocks found themselves down 17 points part-way through the second half. In about 20 minutes, a once-promising season would be dead. Fans were looking up hotel rooms in Tampa, the Outback Bowl – again – was all this squad could likely muster now. 
 
Spurrier had a new quarterback controversy: Play the healthy Dylan Thompson, who had overseen three turnovers (one by interception, two more thanks to running back Mike Davis forgetting how to hold a football), or the coach could hand the ball to Shaw, the senior who at kickoff of the most important game of the year was not healthy enough to play.
 
The Ol’ Ball Coach did what he always does. He yanked the quarterback.
 
And Shaw cemented himself in Gamecock lore. He fastened a brace, passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns and led the Cocks to a come-from-behind 27-24 win in double overtime. 
 
“I thought we were dead, three quarters anyway,” Spurrier said. “Connor Shaw brought us back.”
 
Now the SEC East is there to grab. Mizzou still sits in first place. But the Tigers must contend with Tennessee, Ole Miss and Johnny Football’s Aggies. The Gamecocks? They’ve got Mississippi State next, then two weeks to get ready for Florida in Columbia. The team that wins out clinches the East.
 
“They said his knee was hurt pretty bad,” the old lady says about Connor Shaw. “I think as long as we don’t ask him to use it too much – just use his arm. His arm sure don’t look hurt.”
 
This is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about Connor Shaw’s arm. No one expects him to play on Sundays. 
 
Shaw came to South Carolina as a consensus 3-star recruit, the #47 player out of Georgia, where he played for his dad at Flowery Branch High School. He was labeled a smart football player, more athletic than he looked, a game manager. 
 
No SEC schools other than South Carolina offered him a scholarship. Wake Forest did. So did West Virginia. And East Carolina. Not exactly the kind of gunslinger Spurrier is known to recruit.
 
He mostly sat as a freshman. Then as a sophomore he inherited the starting job when senior Stephen Garcia was booted from the team. Shaw starred against archrival Clemson, passing for more than 200 yards and rushing for 107 yards en route to a third consecutive Gamecocks win.
 
Last season Shaw led the Gamecocks to 11 wins. Remember that Outback Bowl vs. Michigan when Jadeveon Clowney became a household name when he de-helmeted Vincent Smith? Shaw passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 96 more. But you’ve never watched that on YouTube.
 
That’s the thing about the Legend of Connor Shaw. He has a 17-3 record as a starter. But we don’t remember it. 
 
South Carolina fans remember the Legend of Steve Taneyhill, the long-haired gun-slinger who in 1992 took a Sharpie marker and autographed the turf in Clemson’s Death Valley after a win. 
 
 
They remember Blake Mitchell for interceptions and a bar fight in Five Points.
 
But maybe Connor Shaw, that dual-threat game manager, finally gives Cocks fan something worth remembering: A winner.
 
Before church starts and prayers of thanks (and a few confessions of doubt and dirty language) are offered up, the old lady hugs the Minister of Music, a bespectacled man in a buttoned down navy blue suit.
 
“The legend of Connor Shaw,” he says loud enough for the whole sanctuary to hear. “It keeps growing.”
 
Amen.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.