If he had his way, Jaybo Shaw would probably not be home for the holidays.
The Flowery Branch High graduate was aiming for a national title with his new team, the Georgia Southern Eagles, until they were eliminated last week by Delaware, 27-10, in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
However, Shaw — the Eagles’ starting quarterback — wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play in the postseason had he not made the decision to transfer from Georgia Tech in the spring.
In just a matter of months, Shaw went from uncertain playing time with the Yellow Jackets to earning a starting position playing in the same spread option offense he played in at Tech and at Flowery Branch under his father, Falcons coach Lee Shaw.
“I definitely wouldn’t have imagined a year ago that I’d be in this situation,” said Shaw, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior. “But I was thankful and am blessed for the opportunity I had at Georgia Tech. They have a great staff, a great coach and I had a great time.”
Shaw credits Tech coach Paul Johnson for teaching him from a leadership standpoint, saying “I definitely wouldn’t be the player I am today without going through the Tech program.”
However, from an X’s and O’s standpoint, Johnson’s option offense wasn’t an ideal fit for Shaw. When Jackets assistant coach Jeff Monken left to take the head coaching job at Georgia Southern in November of 2009,
Monken said he would install the shotgun spread into the Eagles’ offense, and he would like Shaw to play in it.
Monken and Shaw joined forces and helped guide Georgia Southern to a 7-4 overall record and a 5-3 record in Southern Conference play. In the FCS playoffs, the Eagles beat South Carolina State, William & Mary and Wofford before falling to Delaware in the semifinals.
Despite falling short of a title, Shaw helped lead the Eagles to their first semifinals appearance since 2002. Not bad for a team projected in the preseason to finish seventh in the nine-team Southern Conference.
On the season, Shaw completed 71 of 140 passes for 1,233 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 514 yards and a team-high 16 touchdowns on 209 carries.
“It’s been great here,” Shaw said. “I couldn’t ask for a better place and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a lot of fun.”
With the Eagles returning more than 20 starters to next year’s team, Shaw is poised for another deep playoff run his senior season.
But beyond football, Shaw transferred to Georgia Southern for academic reasons as well. At Tech, Shaw majored in business management, but his career aspirations are to get into coaching. Southern offered an education major Tech didn’t. An education degree is a gateway to high school coaching.
“When I’m done playing ball, I want to coach either in college or high school,” Shaw said.
At the high school level, Flowery Branch would likely have a spot on Lee Shaw’s coaching staff for Jaybo. Lee, who has had a busy fall coaching the Falcons on Friday, then rotating between traveling to Jaybo’s Georgia Southern games and Connor Shaw’s — Jaybo’s younger brother — South Carolina games on Saturdays, said he’s enjoyed watching Jaybo play for the Eagles.
“It’s been really fun watching him get excited,” Lee said. “He reminds me of when he was in high school as far as directing the offense with some of the play he’s made. And he’s playing happy. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun out there.
“I think he has really been embraced and he loves this place and his teammates.”
Though Jaybo won’t be playing in the FCS title game, he and the family will be making one more postseason trip during the holidays. Connor’s Gamecocks will play Florida State on Dec. 31 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, and the Shaw family will be in attendence.
“I’m so happy for him,” said Jaybo of Connor. “I couldn’t be a prouder big brother. He’ll do special things (in his college career), and I’ll have fun watching him.”