You’ll have to forgive Lee Shaw if he seems a little droopy-eyed on Sunday. By then he will have done a lot of driving, watched a lot of football and done very little sleeping.
It’s just that he has a little football trifecta he needs to attend to over the next three days and there won’t be much time for siestas.
Tonight he’ll be in Columbia, S.C., to watch his youngest son Connor Shaw suit up and play for the South Carolina Gamecocks. On Friday, he’ll be in Flowery Branch to coach his high school team in its home opener against Winder-Barrow. Early Saturday morning he’ll be heading south to Statesboro to see his other son Jaybo Shaw making his debut for Georgia Southern against Savannah State.
He has his regular coaches’ meeting planned for early Sunday afternoon, provided he can wake up for it.
“I’ll find sleep when I can,” said the longtime high school coach. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Both Shaw’s sons, Jaybo and Connor, played — and starred — for Shaw at Flowery Branch. Now they’re pulling off the rare dual feat of playing college football at the same time. And when I say playing, I mean actually participating in said games.
Connor is expected to get playing time in tonight’s nationally-televised game against Southern Miss as the backup to Stephen Garcia. Jaybo, who transferred to Georgia Southern from Georgia Tech this past winter, will start for the Eagles and first-year coach Jeff Monken.
“Having two sons as playing quarterback in college, it’s really a dream come true and we know we’re blessed,” Coach Shaw said.
Connor’s ascension is the surprising one. A three-star prospect, he signed with South Carolina to little fanfare last December and joined the Gamecocks as an early enrollee last January. At South Carolina, Shaw was coming in behind Garcia, an established senior who had started the last 14 games in a row. So there were no hints that he’d be eyeing playing time as a true freshman.
But because of Connor’s strong showings in spring ball and the offseason, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier pronounced the quarterback position an ongoing competition early in preseason camp and now says Connor likely will play in tonight’s game.
“We’re all hoping and wishing that Stephen Garcia will play well, play smart and take care of the ball,” Spurrier told reporters this week. “I’m hoping that happens so we can bring Connor along slowly. But if it doesn’t go very well, we’ll give Connor a chance to play. If we’re going to have a big year, our quarterbacks have to play well and play smart. Stephen Garcia will get the first opportunity to do that; Connor will also play early in the game.”
Said Dad: “Him being able to go in in January and go through their off-season workouts and study the playbook worked to his advantage. Connor’s all about football. He loves it. It’s what he does. So he just immerses himself in it. He sent me a text this week. He said, ‘I’m doing what I’ve been doing since I was 6 years old. I love it!’”
That cast aside any doubts Coach Shaw had about missing South Carolina’s opener. He’ll skip Flowery Branch’s Thursday practice instead.
“It’s the only practice I’ve missed in my career but it’s a Thursday night game and I can’t miss Connor’s first college game,” said Shaw, who was making the drive Thursday afternoon with his wife Dawn. “I feel like we’re in pretty good shape. It’s just a walk-through.”
Jaybo’s emergence is no small accomplishment either. He followed Monken to Statesboro to resurrect option football at Georgia Southern but he did so with a still-mangled collarbone, which he broke at Georgia Tech.
After months of intense rehab, Jaybo was able to heal in time to win the starting job for the Eagles. He’ll be under center as the starter on Saturday and Lee and Dawn will be in the stands to see it.
“Jaybo’s doing great,” Lee said. “His collarbone has healed up real well and that’s really fortunate because it was as bad a break as the doctors have ever seen. He’s looking forward to getting Georgia Southern back to option football.”
As for kid-watching, the conflicts have only just begun. The Shaws will have to split up next weekend. Dad will be making the 12-hour drive up to Annapolis, Md., to catch Georgia Southern’s game against Navy while Dawn will carry the family flag back over to Columbia to watch Connor and the Gamecocks take on Georgia.
And then there’s this: The Shaws have a 16-year old daughter named Anna Kate. “A.K.,” as everbody calls her, is a tennis prodigy who’s singles career is just starting to take off.
Sleep? That’ll have to come later.