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


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


”’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


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


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


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


”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


”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


”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