Connor Shaw has an injury history that would make even the Green Bay Packers blush.
In 2013 alone, the South Carolina quarterback had surgery on left foot and suffered both shoulder and knee injuries that forced him to miss playing time.
Blame part of it on Shaw's throwback nature, an inherent grittiness. Even though he played football's royalty position, Shaw wasn't afraid to take off and scramble or keep the ball on a designed option. And when he ran, he refused to be taken down easily.
One of the best running quarterbacks in college football, Shaw ran for 1,683 yards (3.7 ypc) and 17 touchdowns during his four-year career, but he knows the NFL is going to be different. If Shaw wants a professional career that's going to last beyond a few years or few games or even a few series, he's going to have to reign himself in.
"That’s definitely the plan," said Shaw at the NFL Combine. "I don’t want to take any unnecessary hits. When you play at this level, when someone gets ahold of you, it’s going to hurt a lot worse than it did in college so I have to plan that a little smarter than I did in college."
Shaw isn't big by any means. Measuring in at 6' 0" and 206 lbs., there are plenty of other prospects that fall in line with the more prototypical quarterback height and weight profile.
But thanks to predecessors like Drew Brees and—more recently—Russell Wilson, the concerns about Shaw's height are mere white noise.
The things that are causing NFL teams apprehension, unease and anxiety about Shaw are the injuries. The myriad injuries.
In the back of Shaw's mind, however, he knows that by playing it safe and avoiding head-on collisions with linebackers play after play, he's going to stay healthier.
"If you don’t take those big hits, you will last much longer in the NFL," said Shaw.
After a career in which South Carolina went 27-5 during games Shaw started and a senior season that saw him boast a 24-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the film on Shaw speaks for itself.
Even though Shaw might have missed some playing time due to injuries, he appeared in every game in 2013. He was knocked out the Central Florida game in late September with a shoulder injury but returned the following week.
Shaw also sprained both his MCL and LCL in an October loss to Tennessee and didn't start the following week at Missouri but did enter midway through the contest to rally his team to a come-from-behind victory. It's those kind of performances that have the respect of his teammates, hailing his leadership.
"I believe Connor Shaw has everything it takes to be an NFL quarterback," said Jadeveon Clowney. "He’s out there playing hurt. He pushes through practice; he comes back when we need him in clutch moments. Against Missouri, he came back hurt and gave us a chance to win that game. He’s a great quarterback. He can throw it; he can run, makes great calls out there. My hat's off to Connor Shaw."
In 43 career appearances, Shaw had a 65.5 completion percentage and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. For comparison's sake, Aaron Rodgers has averaged 8.2 yards per attempt in his professional career.
The Packers have reportedly shown interest in Shaw by interviewing him, according to Aaron Wilson of the NationalFootballPost.com.
After botching the backup quarterback situation last season before Matt Flynn came in to keep the ship afloat, the Packers appear destined to not let the same situation happen again. The team brings back the raw but talented Scott Tolzien, re-signed Flynn in free agency and has reportedly brought in no fewer than four quarterbacks for pre-drafts to Green Bay.
Recently, the Packers have become no stranger to health concerns, becoming one of the most injury-plagued teams in the NFL three out of the last four seasons. Numbers have skyrocketed with 15 players ending the season on injured reserve in both 2010 and 2013 and nine in 2012.
Understandably, the Packers would want to dig into Shaw's injury history, but by simply changing his style of play, the South Carolina quarterback sees sunny days ahead. And that's a good thing in a place nicknamed "Titletown."
"I think people look at your individual stats more than what you did as a team, and this is a team game," said Shaw. "Priority No. 1 wherever you go is to win, and we did a bunch of it."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
Photo: South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw by Brian Carriveau.
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