Stanford’s Shaw has long been groomed for coaching

Willie Shaw remembers when he first took his teenage son to
Lions training camp. David Shaw, in junior high at the time and an
aspiring receiver, stayed in the dormitory with his father, shagged
balls for the wideouts and even sat in on their position
meetings.

He spent about three weeks working behind the scenes for Detroit
that summer of 1985. It was then when Willie Shaw – a longtime NFL
and college assistant – realized his son might one day have the
coaching bug, too.

Two and a half decades later, David Shaw is Stanford’s new
coach, promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Jim Harbaugh
and keep this program rolling on the heels of a 12-1 season and
Orange Bowl victory.

”The receivers started coming to me and saying: ‘Coach, your
son, he knows what we’re doing. He watches what we’re doing in
meetings, how we’re putting in plays and he asks questions about
it,”’ said Willie Shaw, always a defensive coach himself. ”After
that, he would come to training camp every year and I knew he was
probably going to go into coaching because he was around it so
much. I’ve got pictures of him when he was 3 years old and I was
coaching at Stanford and he was on the practice field.”

Still, when David Shaw broke the news to his mother, Gay, that
he did indeed want to coach, she could barely take the news. Her
son was following in his father’s footsteps in a pressure-packed
profession.

”’Haven’t you seen what has happened in our lives?”’ David
Shaw said, repeating his mother’s words and reaction. ”’Don’t you
understand what this profession does to people and their
families?”’

Shaw’s dad became emotional Thursday for other reasons – namely
the pride he felt seeing his son step into the top job at Stanford
at age 38. This family has come full circle on The Farm, where
Willie Shaw was a finalist for the head coaching job in 1992 – with
his son then on the team – when the late Hall of Fame coach Bill
Walsh decided at the last minute to return for a second stint
coaching the Cardinal.

Willie Shaw instead went to the Vikings as the defensive backs
coach under Dennis Green.

”I coached here twice. This place is still in my heart. It’s my
favorite place I’ve ever coached,” Willie Shaw said of Stanford.
”It’s so rewarding to see this happen 18 years later. Now I’m
thinking, I didn’t get it before, maybe that was why. This is even
more rewarding than if I had gotten it back then. I’m really so
proud.”

David Shaw wound up a receiver at Stanford, where he received
his sociology degree and initially had plans of working in the
financial world. He played for the Cardinal from 1991-94 under
Green and Walsh.

When Shaw learned of a coaching job at Western Washington
University in Bellingham, Wash., he took the leap.

And he realized it was the right move ”the first day of
practice.”

Clearly, this is in his blood.

”My father had a huge influence on me getting into coaching. My
last two years (as a player) I was referred to as coach Shaw by the
younger receivers because I was always the guy who was hard on them
with their splits and their depth and their routes,” David Shaw
said.

”I had this itch. Once we start we can’t do anything else. We
dive into it. We sleep in our offices and work insane hours. Our
passion for the game and for the guys we coach, it comes to a point
where you can’t hide it.”

Shaw takes over after Harbaugh departed last Friday to become
coach of the San Francisco 49ers. A big bonus for Shaw: Orange Bowl
MVP quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck is
returning for another season rather than declaring for the NFL
draft.

”It’s nice not having to learn a new playbook, to be able to
hit spring ball running like you were just on the field in the bowl
game,” Luck said. ”I think that definitely helps in terms of
making a smooth transition.”

Shaw was an NFL assistant with Philadelphia, Oakland and
Baltimore, before joining Harbaugh as an assistant at the
University of San Diego. As passing game coordinator and receivers
coach, he helped lead the Toreros to an 11-1 record and the top
marks in what was then Division I-AA in passing offense, total
offense and scoring offense.

He joined Harbaugh at Stanford the following year and has
coached receivers and running backs, while also serving as
offensive coordinator the past four years.

”He comes from a tremendous coaching family,” Stanford
athletic director Bob Bowlsby said.

Shaw once even asked his father as a young boy, ”Dad, how do
you get to Stanford?”

His father, who knew a thing or two about hard work as the
oldest of seven children, responded by instructing his son to spend
three hours each night at the kitchen table studying. Or, at the
very least, just reading if he didn’t have any assigned
homework.

”I said, ‘because you’re going to have to have that kind of
discipline to get to Stanford,”’ his father recalled.

All that effort, starting way back then, sure has paid off for
Shaw.