COLUMBIA — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier knows the misconception about running quarterbacks.
Those who are quick to tuck and scramble must be compensating for a lack of something else, the general consensus goes. Must not be a true pocket passer, a real gunslinger, the type of quarterback who can chuck footballs downfield and lead a dynamic offense.
Must not be ready for the NFL.
Fair or not, that reputation followed South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw early in his career. As a senior, Spurrier thinks his quarterback has proven his talent as a passer.
“He's an excellent player, and he's so much better as a passer,” Spurrier said. “Anytime a quarterback can run like he can, the general thinking is he must not be a great passer because he can run so well, but his ball has gotten better this year and that's because his foot is 100 percent healthy and he's just played a lot more. He's an excellent passer.
“Connor is doing very well. I really believe he's going to have a chance to play some pro football. All those pro teams hoping to have running quarterbacks, you can see the importance.”
Shaw isn't scraping the top of anyone's quarterback prospects list in what is expected to be a loaded 2014 NFL draft at his position. He doesn't post gaudy stats like Georgia's Aaron Murray or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. He's not a Heisman Trophy contender like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
In his own state, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd gets all the attention from NFL scouts. Regardless, if Shaw continues his pace, he'll be on the radar when the draft comes in April.
Only two quarterbacks in the nation have thrown 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Shaw is one, Mariota the other.
“Connor is playing at a high level. All you've got to do is look at the statistics of how he plays,” Spurrier said. “We were sitting in there talking (Tuesday), the Houston Texans have thrown a pick-6 in five straight weeks. And I said, 'Has Connor Shaw ever thrown one?' I don't think he has. We were trying to figure out the last pick-6 we had.
“Connor, he doesn't do those kind of things.”
When it comes to gaining national attention, Shaw doesn't do himself any favors. He's the opposite of flashy. You won't find him rubbing fingers together, pretending to clutch a wad of cash. He's not the type to pose in the end zone, or reveal a Superman cape under his jersey.
In the age of ESPN, that lack of style matters more than it should. Shaw genuinely doesn't care. He's fine leaving those look-at-me tactics for someone else, preferring to let his stats define him.
“We don't give too much attention to what goes around outside the locker room,” Shaw said. “We just kind of keep to us, and we're pretty good at doing that.”
Looking back, it's hard to figure out why it took so long for Shaw to have the reputation of a quality passer. He has never completed fewer than 65 percent of his passes in a season. His 67.2 career completion percentage ranks second among active SEC starting quarterbacks, behind only Manziel (69.5).
Not bad in a league that includes Murray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
The significance of raw completion percentage can be debated. But, generally, a quarterback's job is to complete passes. The only SEC quarterback who has done that better is the player who won last year's Heisman Trophy.
Of course, there is only one statistic that matters for any player, especially a quarterback. Winning percentage is a quarterback's lasting legacy. With a 22-4 career record, Shaw's strongest compliment comes at the most important part of the game.
Spurrier appreciates that more than anything.
“Ten years from now people aren't going to ask Connor Shaw, 'How much attention did you get?' They're going to ask him 'What was your record?'” Spurrier said. “And he's going to tell them what his record is, how many games did you win and how many did you lose. That's basically all that's going to be remembered when your playing days are over. Everybody will know if you were a starter and played well and were a crucial player to the success of your team.”
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