UPDATE: This column ran in the Aug. 26 print edition of the Daily Trojan, prior to the development of new information regarding senior cornerback Josh Shaw’s injury. For up-to-the-minute information on the developing story, please click here and subscribe to the Daily Trojan Twitter account (@DailyTrojan).
When news broke that senior cornerback Josh Shaw suffered two high ankle sprains after saving his nephew, my first reaction was, admittedly, a bit selfish. “Oh, hell no.” Because let’s be real: Nickell Robey isn’t walking through that door. The Trojans have a legitimate monster at safety in sophomore Su’a Cravens, but Shaw’s potential at cornerback was intriguing and the Florida transfer was turning heads with his play late last season. High ankle sprains don’t have the most encouraging prognoses, and Shaw could miss a large, important chunk of what was supposed to be a potential playoff berth season.
Shaw should not be blamed for his heroic action, but the Trojans will face some of its stiffest competition in the early going. The Trojans will face Stanford in week two, Oregon State in week four and pass-happy Taylor Kelly and the ASU Sun Devils in week five.
Shaw’s experience was a major factor in the upset of Stanford last season and his interception in the second quarter against Oregon State at the Trojans’ 16-yard line prevented a would-be scoring drive for the Beavers and shifted the momentum of the game completely in the Trojans’ favor.
Let’s not forget that Shaw was a potential NFL Draft prospect, going into a make-or-break season for his draft stock that could have put him in contention for a roster spot at the professional level. This season was to be his litmus test, a way to more firmly entrench him in the minds of scouts as a corner who can use his physicality and ball skills to overcome any shortcomings in his quickness.
Which is why my second reaction to the news of Shaw spraining his ankle was mostly sadness. He will be known as the player who sacrificed his final season of eligibility because he had to save his nephew from drowning.
It’s impossible to blame Shaw for saving his nephew and forgetting himself for a brief moment — after all, most decent human beings faced with the situation would have done the same thing. There was no time for Shaw to perform a cost-benefit analysis of saving his nephew, or to gauge the risk of injury. He simply knew the right thing to do and did it.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian testified to Shaw’s character, calling the rescue effort a “heroic act” and saying “that’s the kind of person [Shaw] is.” Shaw told ESPN that he wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Shaw initially transferred from a BCS bowl-contending Florida team to Los Angeles on a hardship waiver. In an interview with Rivals.com, Shaw explained that his grandfather’s failing health wasn’t his only reason for transferring to USC — his father was about to go undergo reconstructive knee surgery while working two jobs to support the family.
“He’s helping out with my grandparents’ house and his own house, so if he can’t work, it really affects the family,” Shaw told Rivals.com in 2012. “It means we could end up losing our house. So I had to come home and help out with the family business in the meantime.”
After returning home to Palmdale, California, Shaw had to choose between two schools: UCLA and USC. It’s a testament to the recruiting efforts of former Tennessee offensive line coach and current USC offensive line coach James Cregg that Shaw was pulled from clutches of that other school across town to ensure he suited up for USC.
Call me cheesy, but it feels like Shaw was fated to be a Trojan. His commitment and extraordinary loyalty to his family manifested not once, but twice in very public situations. His absence this season is a severe blow to an already thin USC secondary, but the Trojan faithful should instead take heart.
A man dedicated to his family, putting others above himself and fighting on through rehab in the face of significant adversity despite sustaining an injury is not just the making of an inspiring viral story. It’s the actions of a man who just set an example for the entire Trojan community. Josh Shaw chose USC and never looked back — and I, as a member of the Trojan family, cannot be more proud to be in his company.
Euno Lee is a senior majoring in English literature. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Euno What Time it is,” runs Tuesdays.