COLUMBIA — They’ll walk onto the court at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday, amid cheers and adoration.
What: College all-star football game
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Carson, Calif.
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NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Together, South Carolina’s 2013 football team will be honored for another program-boosting season, the kind that has become frequent in these parts. Steve Spurrier will take the mic, thank the fans. The scene will be washed in joy, but there also will be a hard reality.
Connor Shaw will be absent.
The face of South Carolina’s football program the past four years will be across the country, playing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. The game will kick off 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. It also will be the first time in four years Shaw plays organized football without a South Carolina jersey.
Shaw has practiced with the first-team offense this week. He’s also soaked up as much knowledge as possible from legendary coaches like Dick Vermeil.
“I’ve been under center 100 percent of the time, and that’s something I’m not real used to doing,” said Shaw, who lined up mostly in the shotgun in Steve Spurrier’s offense at South Carolina.
“So I’ve done a good job of being flexible and learning a different playbook, getting a lot of reps under center, more of an NFL, complex-type of playbook. So it’s been a real good opportunity for me.”
The most important opportunity was getting a week to showcase his skillset to NFL general managers and scouts. Shaw told The Post and Courier on Friday he’s spoken with more than 100 NFL scouts since South Carolina’s win over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, and roughly 20 scouts this week.
So far, feedback has been positive. Scouts are impressed with Shaw’s competitiveness, toughness, accuracy and the way he protects the football, tossing 24 touchdown passes with just one interception this season. Of course, they also recognize his 27-5 record as a starter.
“At the end of the day, the point is to win,” said Joel Turner, who along with his brother Justin, are Shaw’s agent. “Who better to have on your team but somebody who has done nothing but win? He certainly has a bunch of intangibles that anybody would want to have at that position.”
Early in the process, Shaw’s chances in the NFL Draft are wide open. Scouts have told him he could be taken anywhere from the third round to the seventh, or even undrafted, Shaw said.
Over the next five months, he’ll work to climb as high as possible on NFL draft boards. From the NFL Combine to South Carolina’s pro day, he’ll have his chances. It starts Saturday with a game before the NFL’s decision makers.
The winningest quarterback in Gamecocks’ history expects to make a good impression.