The first time Connor Shaw went to Furman in the fall, he wasn’t looking for a job. He was looking for a weight room.
The former South Carolina quarterback and Greenville resident was in his third consecutive NFL season spent on an injured reserve, this time for a torn hamstring, and he needed a place to rehab. That’s how he met Paladins head coach Clay Hendrix, who asked him to speak to a Furman football team chapel service since he was hanging around anyway. That started a relationship that led to Shaw being hired Tuesday to join Hendrix’s staff and coach the Paladins tight ends.
“There were no intentions of it being that way, but it’s kind of cool to see it come full circle,” Shaw told The State. “The thought of being a coach, I just got super passionate about it again and super excited.”
The moment was bittersweet for Shaw as joining what is the family business means putting an end to his football playing career. Shaw threw for 6,074 yards at South Carolina, the fourth-highest total in school history and presided over the winningest era in Gamecocks history. His 27 wins are the most in school history and his career completion percentage of 65.5 percent is the highest in school history.
He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cleveland Browns in 2014 and spent the entire season as a reserve there, starting the final game of that season, completing 14-of-28 passes for 177 yards and an interception. He also rushed seven times for 9 yards in that game. Shaw spent the 2015 season with the Browns rehabbing a thumb injury and was waived by the team in the summer of 2016. He signed that summer by the Bears, finishing there in September when he and the team reached an injury settlement following a foot injury.
“As a player it’s tough to walk away, but when you know, you know,” he said. “I don’t know if it was something that happened overnight.”
The Furman job will be Shaw’s first in coaching, but he knows the business well. His father Lee Shaw is a 21-year high school coaching veteran in Georgia, where he currently serves as the head coach at Rabun County High School, his older brother Jaybo Shaw currently is Rabun County’s offensive coordinator.
When Shaw told his father about his new job, “He just kind of laughed like it was inevitable,” Connor said. “My brother was like, ‘It was just a matter of time before that whistle came across your neck.’ It’s really cool. It’s a weird ring to it when you have three Coach Shaws in the house now.”
Shaw will be introduced at a team meeting Thursday and “hit the ground running” from there, he said. That will mean getting to know the finer points of the tight end position and learning all he will need to know to recruit.
“There will be a learning curve,” he said. “I’ve never coached before. I’ve never been on the road recruiting, but a lot of recruiting is relationships, and I cherish relationships. As far as coaching the tight ends, I have a good grasp from the quarterback perspective.”
Shaw’s popularity in the state of South Carolina would seem to make him a perfect fit to recruit the state, but Hendrix hasn’t assigned recruiting areas yet, Shaw said.