Defensive tackle David Shaw looks like the epitome of a Montana football player — big and tall, with a drooping mustache and Viking beard.
He plays in the trenches, throwing people around, and Bobby Hauck loves to talk about his blue-collar approach to the game, almost a requirement when describing players from the Treasure State.
“He’s a hard-charging guy, he loves to play,” Hauck said. “He’s a guy that takes of his business on and off the field. He’s just a good example.”
But Shaw had to go a long way to find his spiritual football home. The senior from Spring Grove, Pennsylvania played the first three years of his college career at the University of Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C.
When he got to Montana, though, Shaw fit right in.
“He’s a guy that’s come from a great distance and really kind of immersed himself in the program, and I think he’s really flourished,” Hauck said.
Shaw comes by it honestly. Although the scenery around Spring Grove might not look like Montana, the small-town, hard-working ethic is very much the same.
“This reminded me of my hometown,” Shaw said. “It was kind of quiet, a smaller town, you know what I mean?”
Shaw and his brothers grew up working on the family’s worm farm by day and playing football on Friday nights. They were homeschooled for most of their primary education, but still played ball at Spring Grove High School.
Working on the farm made them country-strong — another stereotype often applied to players from Montana — and two of his brothers went on to play at Penn State, following in the footsteps of their dad, who had played at Colgate.
Shaw joined his brothers in the Big 10, committing to Maryland as a three-star recruit in 2013.
One thing that’s easy to learn about Shaw is that he’s not afraid of moving new places, and Maryland was definitely that.
College Park, where UMD is located, is a huge campus about 10 minutes from the DC line. It has a hectic pace that Shaw never experienced in Spring Grove.
He played right away for the Terrapins, appearing in seven games, starting one and recording three tackles his true freshman year before a knee injury ended his debut season. His sophomore year, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that earned him a medical redshirt.
When Shaw came back, he started falling out of the rotation under new Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin in 2016.
After a year of limited playing time, he decided to transfer.
“My first thought when I was thinking about transferring was, how do you do it,” Shaw said. “And like, what are the regulations? Because if you transfer in the same division you have to sit out a year. So I knew I had to transfer down, and I just knew I wanted to play somewhere with a lot of passion for the game.”
It’s common for people from the East Coast to describe a certain feeling of not wanting to miss out on opportunity when they’re asked why they moved to Montana.
Shaw was the same way.
“I had two years left, I might as well just go for it, because why not? When it’s over, it’s over,” Shaw said.
It turned out that feeling was right. Shaw and Montana have been a great fit. In his first season with the Griz, Shaw had 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2017. In his senior season this fall, he’s already matched that number of tackles through six games.
The 6-foot-5 giant has slimmed down from 320 pounds to about 290 over the offseason, which has made him faster and more explosive.
“When I was a nose tackle, I was like 320,” Shaw said. “So, I’m never going to say I was slow, because I’ll never admit that, but, I mean, 320. So I’m down to 290 now, it was a big difference. I’m definitely going to say I feel faster, and definitely on film it feels a lot faster. Definitely if you’re lighter, you’ve got to have a little more pop.”
The Grizzly front seven has been challenged in the run game over the last few weeks, first with Cal Poly’s triple option and then with Portland State’s “BarnyBall.”
It will be more of the same this week with a trip to North Dakota, which is averaging nearly 250 running yards a game behind the senior tandem of John Santiago and Brady Oliveira.
When his career’s over, Shaw isn’t sure whether he’ll stay out West or move back to the East Coast. But with the paths his playing career has already taken him on, he’s not too worried about the decision.
After all, he’s already had one move pan it.
“I had no expectations, there was no stress on my part,” Shaw said. “I was just going to come here and give it all I had, so I wasn’t anxious or anything. I only had two years left, it was no big deal for me. It was the greatest move of my life, honestly, so there’s no regrets.”
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