This was not the way it was supposed to be. USC senior safety Josh Shaw was supposed to be a hero, a Trojan hero, sacrificing his body and his short-term football career for his drowning nephew at a family outing Saturday nght in Palmdale.
And now we don't know if he is or even what could have happened to badly sprain both of his ankles and put the USC senior captain on the sidelines for Saturday's Fresno State opener.
USC certainly doesn't know, as Steve Sarkisian said in an oddly unsupportive statement after practice Tuesday: "He’s a good person. He’s a good kid. He came to us with what had occurred Saturday night and I have no reason, no history to not believe Josh and his story and what has occurred."But Sark continued: "Within the last few hours or so we have gotten a few phone calls contradicting what Josh said occurred Saturday night. We’re going to continue to vet it. We’re looking at it."
And for the media horde of 50 or so out early Tuesday morning to catch a glimpse of the "hero" whose story was the top national college football story of the day Monday, from ESPN's SportsCenter to every major sports Web site, there would be no Josh Shaw.
Not until this gets settled, although apparently USC Associate AD J.K. McKay and Sarkisian both interrogated him about it at length with Sark saying "I only know what Josh says happened," and that he's sticking to his story.
"I'd appreciate it if you gave us time to vet it and know what happened," Sark said. "Josh Shaw has been a good leader for us but we need to know our team . . . we'll see what happens in this one and we'll let you know."
That's a long way from Sunday when Sark was quoted this way by the USCTrojans.com blog: "That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside. But that's the kind of person he is. It is unfortunate that he'll be sidelined for a while and we will miss his leadership and play, but I know he'll be working hard to get back on the field as soon as possible."
The lone quote from Shaw, and maybe the final one until more information comes out, is that "I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew," he said Monday. "My ankles really hurt, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the best trainers and doctors in the world. I am taking my rehab one day at a time, and I hope to be back on the field as soon as possible."
Now we really don't know how that plays out for more reasons than how long it takes to rehab a pair of high ankle sprains.
What's really puzzling here is that if the USC staff did have questions about the story, why did USC put it out with quotes from Sark and Shaw, making it a national story? Until they knew for certain, had time to vet it thoroughly as they're doing now, why put it out there?
Josh was hurt in an off-the-field occurrence and won't be available this Saturday would have sufficed. It was interesting in this day of social media that only one USC football player tweeted about it Monday, Zach Banner.
Here's what Zach tweeted: "Josh Shaw was a great man before the incident this weekend, and its sad BUT uplifting that it took this event to show that to the world!"
The rest of Shaw's teammates had nothing but good things to say about him after practice Tuesday, maybe not having heard the hesitation from their coaches. "I probably would have done the same thing," Buck Allen said. "It didn't surprise me. Josh is a great person . . . the Lord works in mysterious ways."
"A very big loss," Darreus Rogers said of Shaw's ability to lead. "He's the first one in, the last one out."
"It didn't surprise me," Cody Kessler said. "That's the type of guy Josh is . . . he leads by example . . . I thought he handled it great."
And now there are questions. And the same media people who were making Josh a hero Monday are making him out to be Manti Te'o today. And USC, which seemed quick to get the story out Monday is taking its time Tuesday, as well it should.
But the longer this goes, the more the Internet rumors grow and the more we see people posting that "according to twitter," as if twitter were somehow an authority of some sort and not just a person with a cellphone and an account with 140 characters to burn.
Sark said he thought Tuesday's practice, overshadowed as it was by the Shaw news/no news, was just what he wanted in the first game-week Tuesday full-pads work with "Cody [Kessler] extremely sharp" . . . There was "attention to detail" and it was "competitive," Sark said . . . USC returns to practice at 8;15 Wednesday in its first week of early morning game preparations with Fresno State coming into the Coliseum for the season opener (4:30 p.m., Fox TV) . . . Wednesday's practice will be open to the media with Thursday closed and Sark only available to the media afterward.
For a complete wrapup of Tuesday morning's practice, check out TUESDAY MORNING GHOST NOTES.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.