“I am a firm believer that if he didn’t play quarterback he would make an unbelievable free safety,” said Smith, the founder of Competitive Edge Sports in Atlanta.
CES has trained more professional football players than any gym in the country the past 20 years and is one of the nation’s most acclaimed strength and speed factories. Smith has seen enough talent to know, and when he saw Shaw as a fifth-grader, tagging along behind big brother Jaybo, he saw potential.
“I just saw things in Connor that I knew the kid had some serious athletic ability and not only that but he is so stinking tough,” Smith said. “We have been doing this a long time. It is a no joke. Most kids don’t want anything to do with it. When you get a middle school kid that jumps in and does two hours of skill work, two hours of strength work and two hours of speed work in a day, you know he’s a little different.”
Shaw, South Carolina’s junior quarterback, showed that during the Gamecocks’ winter workouts this year, gaining more than 10 pounds (up to 215) and setting every school weight room record for quarterbacks.
“As a quarterback, he doesn’t get a chance to get let loose in the weight room very much,” Gamecocks strength coach Joe Connolly said. “In the season, we manipulate his intensity and workload. In the summer time, he is doing a lot of throwing, so he can’t really lift the same way a lot of other people can. In the winter time, Connor loves it, he eats it up.
“He had some fantastic numbers.”
Exactly how good, the school won’t say. South Carolina declined to release Shaw’s workout numbers and declined to make Shaw available for an interview last week. The Gamecocks begin spring practice Tuesday.
Shaw already held South Carolina’s 40-yard dash record for quarterbacks and decreased it by a tenth of a second, decreased his NFL-style shuttle run by more than that, increased his broad jump and vertical jump and bested the school’s previous quarterback records in power clean, squat and bench press.
“He had a fantastic offseason, one of the better ones we had, no question about it,” Connolly said.
Shaw threw for 1,448 yards and rushed for another 525 in 10 games last season. His added weight and strength will make him more durable, no small factor for a quarterback who averaged 13.5 carries per game last season.
“What my job is is to get a guy better prepared for the rigors of football,” Connolly said. “By getting a guy bigger, stronger and faster and more durable, that to me makes him a better football player.”
For Shaw, that process started in Smith’s gym a decade ago. The only doubt Smith had was if Shaw would grow tall enough to play quarterback for a major college football team.
“He wanted to be the best of everything he did,” Smith said. “He just took everything very serious. He’s got all the tangible abilities that I knew it would just be a matter of time before he would step in at Carolina.”