COLUMBIA — Connor Shaw was across the country when his team was honored before the hometown fans this weekend, but South Carolina was close to his thoughts.
Life has moved on for the former Gamecocks quarterback. Shaw’s focus is on preparing for the NFL draft, where he’s been told he could be taken as high as the third round. Or he could go undrafted. His professional future hinges on a few short months.
So forgive Shaw if he’s been unable to jot down his 10 favorite moments in a Gamecocks uniform, or ponder where his 27-5 record as a starting quarterback places him in South Carolina’s football history. Right now, his schedule is jammed, his days flying by fast. His priority last week was the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in California, where he completed 5 of 6 passes for 70 yards and an uncharacteristic interception.
Even still, South Carolina has been close to his thoughts.
Shaw spoke with The Post and Courier this weekend, part of what will be a regular question-and-answer series with Gamecocks beat writer Ryan Wood leading up to the NFL draft in May. Shaw discussed his legacy at South Carolina, his unprecedented touchdown-to-interception ratio and his conversations with NFL teams.
Q: I know you’ve been very busy since your final game in the Capital One Bowl. Have you had a chance to sit and think about your legacy at South Carolina, and what does it mean to you?
A: You’re right, I have been very busy. I haven’t really had a lot of time to just sit down and just think of my last four years in detail, but every time it crosses my mind I can’t help but to just smile. I have great memories at South Carolina. I left that place on a very high note, and I’m so fortunate to be able to say that. I’m very thankful for my coaching staff and all my fans that supported me.
Q: What will be your most vivid memory of South Carolina moving forward?
A: Probably playing in Williams-Brice, not losing there, and coming out through the tunnel wearing that garnet jersey. Obviously, my last game is very vivid in my life. It was very emotional coming into the locker room. I remember I walked into the locker room, I was trying to keep my emotions away from everybody on the field, and then I had just everybody come up and hug me. I cried like a baby. It was very difficult for me to take that jersey off for the last time.
Q: When it comes to your legacy, the wins are the first thing fans discuss. Is being remembered as a true winner perhaps the highest praise you can receive as a quarterback?
A: Absolutely. I think a lot of people are caught up in the flashy statistics, what you do on the field. I think at the end of the day, the only stat that counts is a W. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been very lucky to be part of great coaching staffs and players that surround me that make me look good, but at the end of the day I’m a winner, man. I find a way to win. When you look at the teams, the quarterbacks in the NFL like Russell Wilson, he doesn’t put up all the flashy 300-yard, 400-yard performances, but he wins. That’s such a vital part in this game.
Q: Let’s talk about one stat, which sort of defined your senior season. Your touchdown-to-interception ratio (24 touchdown passes, one interception) is unheard of. Where did that level of efficiency come from?
A: I was never one to turn the ball over. When I got to college, (quarterback coach G.A.) Mangus, I give all the credit in the world to because he harped on me about protecting the ball, and we’d have a chance to win if we won the turnover battle. That’s something he ingrained in me. This season, we did a great job of limiting turnovers. I go back, and I think my career is around 50-plus touchdowns and about 15 interceptions (Shaw finished with 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions), so I’m very pleased with that ratio. Again, I give credit to my quarterback coach on that one.
Q; What’s the key for a quarterback to be that efficient throwing the football?
A: Accuracy. It’s all about accuracy. A lot of people in this day are caught up in the velocity of the ball, arm strength, and yes that’s a key part of the game. But accuracy is vital in this game. If you can put the ball in tight windows and place the ball where you want it to be, you’re going to have a chance to win some ballgames. I feel like I’ve done a good job with that.
Q: What have you been hearing from NFL teams?
A: I’ve had a great opportunity to talk to a lot of people, and I’ve heard anywhere from third round to seventh round to undrafted. I know Seattle likes me. They’ve had me pretty high on their board right now. I’ve also heard back from teams like San Francisco and Kansas City. We’ll see. You never know.
Q: What are some of the things scouts and GMs are saying they like about you as a quarterback?
A: Specifically, talking with John Schneider, the Seattle GM, he said that for one, I’m a winner. Two, I don’t turn the ball over. I’m very tough, and I’m competitive. That’s what I’ve been telling everybody and what people have been telling me that they admire and they love as a quarterback. They can tell I’m a leader on the field, and the biggest thing is I’m very competitive. I think all these guys are able to see that on the field.