When Jaybo Shaw decided to transfer to Georgia Southern to play for the Eagles in 2010 and pursue a career in coaching, GSU head coach Jeff Monken knew exactly what he was getting.
"It’s his personality," said Monken, who was the slotbacks coach at Georgia Tech while Shaw was a quarterback there from 2008-09. "I knew our guys would like him, I knew he would be a good fit in our program with our kids. He’s such a humble kid and I knew he wouldn’t come in and act like a hot-shot quarterback.
"He’d go out there and snap the ball to another quarterback if that’s what it took to win."
What Shaw did come in with was knowledge of the triple-option offense nobody else on the team had any experience with. Monken made it clear from the beginning that Shaw was going to be the starting quarterback, and the team didn’t have any problem with that.
"I just tried to come in here with a clean mind and help my team out as much as possible," said Shaw, now a senior, who has a 10-4 record as the GSU starter. "They helped me out, too. They accepted me as soon as I got on campus in the summer, and I owe them a lot of credit for accepting me the way they did."
Shaw proved his leadership qualities over and over on the field during the 2010 season. He fought off nagging injuries throughout the year but missed only six quarters of action in the 15-game season.
While he didn’t light up the stat sheets — he averaged 34.3 rushing yards per game and passed for 82.2 yards per game — he knew that wasn’t what he set out to do.
"I’m not the fastest and I may not have the absolute strongest arm, but I can control how tough I am," said Shaw. "I try to be one of the toughest every Saturday. That’s my job on this football team — to be the best leader that I can and to be the best quarterback that I can."
Shaw’s determination led him to a total of 21 touchdowns, 16 rushing and five passing, but it was the way he jumped to his feet after taking a big hit that pumped up the rest of the team – and not just the other players.
"I’ll tell you, it fires me up," Monken said. "You see a personality on your team, when the quarterback gets hit and gets back up, of a never-say-die attitude. As Walter Payton said, ‘Never die easy.’ Keep fighting all the way."
Shaw was rewarded for his efforts after the season as the 2010 recipient of the team’s "Erk Russell Award" for the player who most exemplifies the character, morals, ethics and actions of the legendary Georgia Southern coach.
"There’s so many guys on this team that deserve that award," Shaw said, "so I took it for the whole team. This team is special."
Shaw’s college playing career will be over when the 2011 season comes to a close. Right now though, he’s not thinking about the end.
"I’m getting into coaching after this. This is my last camp, so I’m trying to make the most if it," he said. "I’m trying to enjoy the little things — being out here with the guys and trying to have fun — because this is it."
The Eagles had their final two-a-day practice Wednesday, and will return to Beautiful Eagle Creek today for a 2:45 p.m. practice. There will be four more practice sessions before fall camp closes. Classes begin Monday. The team will not practice on the first day of classes, but walk-on tryouts will be held at 4 p.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.