DE Shaw Bounces Back Again

It was a screen pass, and Jim Shaw was out of position. Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford had dropped back into his own end zone, and Shaw had to hustle to reach him. But hustle he did. He recovered and wrapped up Weatherford for a safety that would prove critical in Penn State's Orange Bowl victory over the Seminoles.

“If you want to be technical, I didn't read the play the right way,” Jim Shaw said. “It worked out pretty good though.”

That just about sums up his college career. The senior defensive end has been in some difficult spots, but has made a habit of recovering.

With the 2006 season approaching, Shaw looks like a rising star. He has won praise this spring for his play at defensive end, where he is poised to claim a starting spot following the graduation of Tamba Hali and Matthew Rice.

But Shaw's rise to Penn State's starting lineup was anything but preordained.

He hadn't been heavily recruited coming out of Spring Grove (Pa.) High in 2002. Shaw weighed 195 pounds at the time. Of the few schools that had an interest in such an undersized lineman, the most appealing was Rice.

So off to Houston he went. After redshirting as a freshman, he quickly became a fixture on the defense, starting 12 games and making 45 tackles. Shaw had two things working in his favor -- good genes (his father stands 6-foot-6, 280 pounds) and a passion for weightlifting. He was happy with his decision.

“I actually had a pretty good time,” he said. “But I wanted to play with my brother. That's what brought me back.”

Shaw's younger brother, John Shaw, had joined the Nittany Lions as a member of their 2003 recruiting class. The younger Shaw was bigger than his sibling and played on the defensive line as a true freshman. He asked a Penn State coach if there was a place on the team for Jim.

As it turned out, there was a place. Shaw enrolled at Penn State in 2004 and played on the scout team while sitting out in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. A weight-training enthusiast, Shaw found he could get up to 290 pounds with some determined lifting and a lot of extra calories. He played defensive tackle and vowed not to back down in his battles with the offensive starters.

“I just wanted to make them look bad,” he said. “I was going as hard as I could, for the fun of it. … It was my first experience at a big, big-time program. It was fun to go as hard as I could and see how I matched up.”

Evidently, Shaw matched up quite well. When the Lions began their 2005 season against South Florida, he was in the starting lineup at defensive tackle. But that's where his good fortune ended. A knee injury forced him out of the lineup and hindered his play for the rest of the regular season.

Shaw, who later moved to defensive end behind Hali, said his knee didn't feel completely healthy until the team took a three-week break in between the end of the regular season and the Orange Bowl. “I didn't do anything on it [during the break],” he said. “I think that helped a lot.”

Shaw figures to start this fall, and he's hoping that John wins a first-team position on the Lions' rebuilt offensive line. The two brothers are close, so much so that they feel awkward going up against each other in practice. If they both were to start for the Nittany Lions, it would be more than a nice footnote to their respective careers.

“It would be the realization of a lot of hard work,” Shaw said. “Hopefully, it will all work out. If it does, I'll be pretty grateful.”

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