Jan. 14, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -
by Janie McCauley, AP
Willie Shaw remembers when he first took his teenage son to Lions training camp. David Shaw, in junior high at the time and an aspiring receiver, stayed in the dormitory with his father, shagged balls for the wideouts and even sat in on their position meetings.
He spent about three weeks working behind the scenes for Detroit that summer of 1985. It was then when Willie Shaw, a longtime NFL and college assistant, realized his son might one day have the coaching bug, too.
Two and a half decades later, David Shaw is Stanford's new coach, promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Jim Harbaugh and keep this program rolling on the heels of a 12-1 season and Orange Bowl victory.
"The receivers started coming to me and saying: 'Coach, your son, he knows what we're doing. He watches what we're doing in meetings, how we're putting in plays and he asks questions about it,'" said Willie Shaw, always a defensive coach himself. "After that, he would come to training camp every year and I knew he was probably going to go into coaching because he was around it so much. I've got pictures of him when he was 3 years old and I was coaching at Stanford and he was on the practice field."
Still, when David Shaw broke the news to his mother, Gay, that he did indeed want to coach, she could barely take the news. Her son was following in his father's footsteps in a pressure-packed profession.
"'Haven't you seen what has happened in our lives?'" David Shaw said, repeating his mother's words and reaction. "'Don't you understand what this profession does to people and their families?'"
Shaw's dad became emotional Thursday for other reasons, namely the pride he felt seeing his son step into the top job at Stanford at age 38. This family has come full circle on The Farm, where Willie Shaw was a finalist for the head coaching job in 1992 with his son then on the team when the late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh decided at the last minute to return for a second stint coaching the Cardinal.
Willie Shaw instead went to the Vikings as the defensive backs coach under Dennis Green.
"I coached here twice. This place is still in my heart. It's my favorite place I've ever coached," Willie Shaw said of Stanford. "It's so rewarding to see this happen 18 years later. Now I'm thinking, I didn't get it before, maybe that was why. This is even more rewarding than if I had gotten it back then. I'm really so proud."
David Shaw wound up a receiver at Stanford, where he received his sociology degree and initially had plans of working in the financial world. He played for the Cardinal from 1991-94 under Green and Walsh. When Shaw learned of a coaching job at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., he took the leap.
And he realized it was the right move "the first day of practice."
Clearly, this is in his blood.
"My father had a huge influence on me getting into coaching. My last two years (as a player) I was referred to as coach Shaw by the younger receivers because I was always the guy who was hard on them with their splits and their depth and their routes," David Shaw said.
"I had this itch. Once we start we can't do anything else. We dive into it. We sleep in our offices and work insane hours. Our passion for the game and for the guys we coach, it comes to a point where you can't hide it."
Shaw takes over after Harbaugh departed last Friday to become coach of the San Francisco 49ers. A big bonus for Shaw: Orange Bowl MVP quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck is returning for another season rather than declaring for the NFL draft.
"It's nice not having to learn a new playbook, to be able to hit spring ball running like you were just on the field in the bowl game," Luck said. "I think that definitely helps in terms of making a smooth transition."
Shaw was an NFL assistant with Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore, before joining Harbaugh as an assistant at the University of San Diego. As passing game coordinator and receivers coach, he helped lead the Toreros to an 11-1 record and the top marks in what was then Division I-AA in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense.
He joined Harbaugh at Stanford the following year and has coached receivers and running backs, while also serving as offensive coordinator the past four years.
"He comes from a tremendous coaching family," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said.
Shaw once even asked his father as a young boy, "Dad, how do you get to Stanford?"
His father, who knew a thing or two about hard work as the oldest of seven children, responded by instructing his son to spend three hours each night at the kitchen table studying. Or, at the very least, just reading if he didn't have any assigned homework.
"I said, 'because you're going to have to have that kind of discipline to get to Stanford,'" his father recalled.
All that effort, starting way back then, sure has paid off for Shaw.