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October 8, 2013

Shaw loser in Clowney saga

There's a leader on this South Carolina team, but you'd hardly know it from the coverage.

He plays through injury. He plays through pain. He plays through whatever.

He's unselfish. He puts his team first. He fights through adversity and has overcome obstacles his entire career to become the the winningest quarterback in school history with a 21-4 record, including a perfect 13-0 in Columbia.

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In this, his senior year, he's on fire, playing the best football of his career. He's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes (68.8 percent) and has thrown for seven touchdown and no interceptions while amassing 927 yards. He's run for another 280.

For someone who has done nothing but lead the program week-in and week-out at the most important position on the field through its most-successful run in more than 100 years of fielding a football team, you'd think Connor Shaw would merit the kind of press reserved for such lofty accomplishments.

And yet, even in a week he willed himself back from what looked like a serious shoulder injury to play superbly in a key division win over Kentucky, Shaw is a media afterthought. A shoulder shrug. A sidebar.

Unfortunately, that's life on a team with Jadeveon Clowney. Even when Clowney doesn't play, he's news. Somehow, the public mind has been so warped, so waterlogged with hype about Clowney's accomplishments, people have forgotten how sparse those accomplishments really are, how little what he has done would have meant if not for Shaw.

Even "The Hit" is widely misremembered. Sure, it gave the Gamecocks the ball back and field position, allowing Shaw to throw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ace Sanders to go ahead 28-27. But that wasn't the final score, was it? Clowney and company disappeared again on the next drive, the most important Michigan drive of the game, as the Gamecock defense allowed the Wolverines to march the length of the field and score a touchdown to take the lead with just 4:37 left. Not very heroic.

What was heroic was the drive Shaw led, though everyone seems to celebrate most the few plays that Dylan Thompson came in to toss the game-winner. But before Thompson had a chance to throw for the end zone, the Gamecocks had to drive to get in range, and that, good people, was all on the back of one Connor Shaw, who is probably the least-appreciated Outback Bowl star behind Clowney, Thompson, Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders.

The best thing about Shaw, however? The part you really should admire, beyond his mountain of accomplishments that will be nearly impossible for any future Gamecock quarterback, ever, to top?

He doesn't care. He doesn't dwell on the spotlight, doesn't dwell on hype, doesn't dwell on whether or not you appreciate him. Why? Because the man's got a job to do, and that job needs to get done. He's more blue-collar than blue-chipper, and his work ethic makes that of some other folks we could mention look like a sick joke.

So while people are wallowing in the frenzy over an under-performing player not even ranked in the top 50 in the SEC in tackles, not in the top 10 in tackles for loss and certainly not a candidate for All-SEC, much less All-American, how about taking a few seconds to thank and be grateful for someone who has done nothing but never lose a game in Columbia as the starter, beat Clemson, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee - repeatedly - and lead his team to back-to-back 11 win-seasons and bowl victories over two of the most storied football franchises in America in Michigan and Nebraska?

Or, we could just talk about Clowney, the team's 15th-leading tackler, some more.

The choice, believe it or not, is ours.

On Gamecock Central now!

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