Connor Shaw’s NFL career is officially over, but at least one part of Friday reminded him of his days in professional football.
“I feel like I’m still in Chicago,” the former South Carolina quarterback said after his first day on the practice field as Furman’s tight ends coach.
That was because of the weather, a temperature that fell below 40 by the time the workout was over and whipping winds most of the afternoon. Other than that, everything else was different for Shaw, who took the field without a helmet for the first time since he was 6 years old.
“I had a couple people remind me that my shoes are in my locker and there are no more cleats in there,” he said. “I almost wanted to steal a helmet from somebody when we came out here.”
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Instead, he went with a white baseball cap, a gray sweat suit and sneakers and tried to learn the ropes.
Furman head coach Clay Hendrix teased Shaw before the practice began because The State newspaper asked and received permission from Hendrix to put a microphone on Shaw throughout the workout. After the practice, Hendrix asked Shaw to lead the team prayer.
Between those two times, it was pretty quiet. Shaw has only three tight ends to work with this spring and still is finding his voice as a coach, he said. There was no yelling and not even a raised voice Friday as the Paladins opened spring practice.
“I think I’m trying to find my role and personality as a coach,” he said. “I think I’ll open up more as time goes, but it doesn’t help when it’s really cold out here. These guys know it’s my first time coaching, too. It’s more familiar to them than it is to me.”
There was another big difference for Shaw that illustrated the difference between being a player and a coach. As practice broke up just before 6 p.m. and the sun was setting on the Furman campus, the players all bolted for the showers and then the parking lot. Their day was done, while Shaw and the rest of the coaches went to huddle in the office to watch the practice tape.
“Playing or coaching, regardless, it was good to be back on the football field,” he said. “It was a good day to get my feet wet.”