As a high school player in suburban Detroit, Shaw was recruited heavily by both Penn State and Michigan State. He gave the Spartans serious consideration when it came time to make up his mind but couldn't quite bring himself to sign with the in-state institution, a favorite (along with Michigan) of many in his graduating class at Clarenceville High.
I sat down with my high school coach and compared the two, Shaw said. In the end, I just felt [Penn State] was a better place for me. This was a special place. It was different from all the other schools I visited, and I wanted to do something different from what most of the kids do in my state, whether it's going to Michigan or Michigan State.
So off he went to University Park, enduring the good-natured ribbing of friends and acquaintances. Now a junior inside linebacker, Shaw has thrived in college, and many of those who initially were perplexed by his decision have become Nittany Lion supporters.
My good friends, I've converted them, they're all Penn State fans now, Shaw said. But I did get a lot of comments from people who weren't such close friends or people who were diehard Michigan fans or [Michigan] State fans. It was all in good fun.
Shaw, who has started both inside and outside this season, is the least celebrated of Penn State's starting linebacker trio. Junior Paul Posluszny has been named a finalist for the Butkus and Lombardi awards and was recently lauded as the best linebacker in school history by no less an authority than Jack Ham. Meanwhile, sophomore Dan Connor has played his way back into the good graces of Joe Paterno after sitting out the team's first three games for disciplinary reasons.
Shaw, meanwhile, has quietly — and sometimes not so quietly — made plays. He ranks third on the team with 66 tackles including 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Tim is a very physical linebacker, but his main asset is his speed, Posluszny said. He's able to cover guys really well. And lately we've been able to blitz him a lot. He's playing the run game so well and he's blitzing so well that that's a huge asset for us. We know that when we bring him on a blitz, something big is going to happen.
Shaw said he doesn't mind that his teammates have gotten most of the attention.
The bottom line is those two guys are great linebackers, he said. I'd rather be playing with them than with two guys who are worse than me, because they elevate my game. Every week, I have to be compared by [reporters] and by everybody to those guys, and that's great. I want to elevate my game every week, I want to be on that level with them. So whether I'm overshadowed or not, it's not a big deal to me. I still have a lot of improvements to make in my game, so those are the things I focus on.
Shaw said he's looking forward to Saturday's game at Michigan State, in part because he is acquainted with a number of Spartans players. He's also expecting a sizable cheering section, although it won't include his parents, who are planning to attend his younger brother's high school playoff game.
Four years into his college career - he redshirted during his sophomore season, during which he moved from tailback to linebacker — Shaw doesn't catch much flak anymore for his decision to attend Penn State. He's not much interested in engaging in verbal battles and insists he wouldn't even bring it up to future antagonists if the Nittany Lions were to win the Big Ten championship this weekend in his home state.
That's something I wouldn't have to say, he explained. I could just flash a smile and maybe a ring.
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