I sure flashed my ring a lot, the senior defensive end explained. That's all that needed to be said.
The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title and the Orange Bowl last season, giving Shaw plenty to brag about on his trips home to Livonia, Mich. From where he stood, those accomplishments trumped the one blemish on the team's record - a 27-25 loss at Michigan Stadium. Surely, the Wolverines would have traded places with the Lions at season's end. It was Michigan, after all, that went to a December bowl and finished an uncharacteristic 7-5, not Penn State.
Nevertheless, Shaw has taken plenty of guff over the years, with the Lions having lost their past seven games against Michigan. Last year's loss was especially galling, coming as it did on the final play of the game, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham that followed a controversial officiating decision in which time was added to the clock at the behest of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
Like his dejected teammates, Shaw walked off the field feeling heartbroken. Said the former linebacker, It was one of those bad feelings of, 'Man, what did we let slip through our fingers?'
Shaw's recollections echoed those of Joe Paterno. We could have had an undefeated season and been in the national championship picture, the coach said. Once we got by Northwestern, had a little confidence and started to play well, we felt we had a shot at being right up there fighting for the No. 1 spot.
The Lions have gone to great lengths this week to downplay any talk of their hard-luck history with Michigan. Paterno was unusually circumspect at his Tuesday news conference. Asked whether he was frustrated at not being able to get over the hump against Michigan, he replied, I don't even know what you're talking about, really.
In keeping with that theme, Shaw insisted he isn't interested in winning bragging rights or accumulating ammunition to use in future encounters with Wolverines fans. He said his motivation this week is the same as it is every other week - to help keep the team winning and remain in contention for another ring. That it's Michigan on the opposite sideline doesn't matter. Said Shaw, On a personal level [a victory] would be nice. But it's more about the team.