By listening carefully to his position coach, walk-on Jared Shaw made himself one of the stars in Saturday's scrimmage.
Shaw, another product from the Rock Hill-Fort Mill region, introduced himself to the 500 or South Carolina fans in attendance at Williams-Brice Stadium when he jumped a curl route and intercepted a pass thrown by Dylan Thompson intended for Damiere Byrd and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.
Actually, he might want to walk up and introduce himself to head coach Steve Spurrier, who mistakenly identified Shaw by the name of another walk-on safety/spur who left the program following the 2011 season - Matt O'Brien.
However, if Shaw fulfills the expectations this spring of the USC defensive coaches, Spurrier will know the fifth-year senior's name soon enough.
"I think I've done pretty well this spring," Shaw said after Saturday's scrimmage. "I feel like I've done decently for myself. There is always room for improvement. I would love to get a lot better and get more consistent."
Shaw is listed on the spring roster as a spur linebacker, but recently moved to cornerback when the key position was quickly depleted by injuries.
"Jared is a great utility guy," USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "I think Jared can help us here on special teams. He played safety the first part of spring and then we lost Cadarious (Sanders) to a hamstring injury. He's learning. He's a ballplayer. If Jared can continue to get better, he can help us."
Because of the lack of numbers, both Shaw and walk-on Kenny Robinson moved to cornerback to help fill that spot. Shaw is second-team corner behind Jimmy Legree, who is working as No. 1 cornerback in the absence of Akeem Auguste.
"I played corner when I was a junior in high school," Shaw said. "The way our coaching is, I feel it was a smooth transition. Corner has a little less responsibility than being back there at free safety all by yourself. Jimmy has helped me out. All my teammates have been great trying to help me."
Shaw was cited as one of the top five walk-ons during the 2011 Garnet and Black game, but left the program in August and was not part of the team during the historic 11-win season because he suffered a pair of concussions and had his appendix taken out.
"Somebody was telling me things weren't right, so I took a semester off," Shaw said. "But I couldn't have missed it more. I was itching watching my teammates play and not being with them. I had to get out here back in the spring. Luckily, they gave me a chance to get back."
Shaw returned to the Gamecocks with modest goals, but could eventually surpass them if his solid performance in Saturday's scrimmage is any indication.
"We have such amazing athletes on this team that my goal as a walk-on when I came out here was to be on the kickoff team," Shaw said after Saturday's scrimmage. "I knew my role. I'm a backup DB. I feel the backup DBs should find a place on the kickoff team. But if injuries happen, I'm trying my hardest not to have our DBs' experience any fallout if one of our star players gets hurt."
Currently, Shaw serves on the back-up kickoff coverage team, but hopes to earn a spot on the top unit by the time the 2012 season starts.
"I'm hoping I can squeeze in there," Shaw said. "I love to imagine what it would be like to run down there and making a tackle right in front of the student section. That would be a dream come true."
Shaw, who grew up a LSU fan because that's where his mother graduated from, graduated from Fort Mill (S.C.) High School in 2008 and played football at Newberry College that fall before deciding to transfer to USC the following year. He was a wide receiver in high school and also served as a punt returner.
"I didn't have a full scholarship, so I was actually paying more money to go to Newberry than I would have to come here," Shaw explained. "I got an academic scholarship to come here. I played against Stephon (Gilmore) and DeVonte (Holloman) in high school. I talked with Blake Baxley, South Pointe's coach when Stephon and DeVonte were there, was my head coach at Fort Mill. I spoke with him about my chances of walking on here."
Even though he was an LSU supporter growing up, Shaw said he now "couldn't be more of a Gamecock fan."
"I love the coaches, I love the fans, I love the players, I love all my teammates," Shaw said. "As a walk-on, we don't get any money or anything else to be out here. It's just love for the game. I want them to see I can come out here and be a contributor. I want the fans to view me as a guy who loves to be out here. This is my passion. I'm excited every time I step on the field."
Shaw's mother (Linda), sister and girlfriend attended Saturday's scrimmage and could be heard cheering loudly when he came through with the Pick-6.
He walked onto the Gamecock football team in 2009, but was unable to play in 2009 because of the NCAA's transfer rules.
Shaw saw action in two games in 2010 (Southern Miss and Troy) when both games turned into routs. He still vividly recalls the moment when he stepped onto the field in the fourth quarter on Sept. 2, 2010, when USC was finishing off a season-opening 41-13 victory over Southern Miss.
"We were up by a lot, but no one had left yet," Shaw recalled. "As soon as I got on the field, they called a TV timeout. So I'm standing out there with my legs shaking and looking around at 85,000 people. It was definitely a dream come true. It went by in a flash. I got two series. I loved every minute of it."
Besides seeing action late in the Southern Miss contest, Saturday's Pick-6 has been one of Shaw's highlight moments with the Gamecocks.
"The feeling was really good," Shaw said. "It was my time to catch my pick. To see that clear window, I knew I just had the quarterback to beat. Dylan is a fast kid, but I knew if I could get to the corner, nobody was going to stop me. I was pretty happy. I can't imagine if that would have been a game. I don't know what I would have done. It's a dream."
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