COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is on pace to lead the 14th-ranked Gamecocks to their best offensive season in program history. And he's not going to let injuries stop him.
Shaw has a 21-4 career mark as a starter. He's four wins shy of surpassing ex-Gamecocks QB Todd Ellis' school record of 24 victories. Shaw has completed nearly 69 percent of his passes this fall and hasn't thrown an interception.
He's helped the Gamecocks average a school-best 476 yards a game and on they're on track to surpass 6,000 yards of offense for the first time.
Yet, Shaw's season looked in jeopardy two weeks back after a hit on his right, throwing shoulder sidelined him in the first quarter of South Carolina's 28-25 win at UCF. Shaw came out of the locker room with a grimace on his face, his arm in a sling and ice bags on what looked like a badly damaged shoulder.
"When he came off the field, it looked like he was out for the season maybe," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks said Shaw would be out 2-3 weeks, but two days later, the QB was confidently throwing passes more half a football field. Shaw started he next game, Saturday night's 35-28 win at Kentucky and threw for 262 yards and a touchdown.
"It was my senior year, I didn't want to miss another game," Shaw said. "I just knew I was going to be able to play."
In a week when South Carolina was embroiled in a back-and-forth debate about the commitment of injured All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney , the Gamecocks have rarely had to worry about where Shaw's head is at.
"I've always had the mentality that I was going to play through it, no matter what," Shaw said.
Still, Shaw won't hold himself up as an example of how to play the game and defended Clowney, who pulled himself out of the Kentucky game because of a strained muscle near his ribcage. Shaw said he and teammates fully support of Clowney and don't believe he's quit on the Gamecocks.
"Our team doesn't feel that way at all," Shaw said. "it doesn't faze us at all. I think it is just that everybody surrounding it is making it a big deal. All I know is Clowney has helped us win a lot of games and he will in the future as well."
Shaw plans to help South Carolina to win, too, no matter how many more hits he may endure the rest of the season.
That's been Shaw's attitude throughout his career and one he expects to continue Saturday when Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) head to Arkansas (3-3, 0-2).
Shaw is the son a Georgia high school coach and younger brother of former Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw. He said he's always held the mindset to play through pain.
"Connor's a real tough dude," freshman receiver Pharoh Cooper said. "He has great leadership and is somebody you can look up to as a young guy."
Shaw injured his shoulder in the 2012 opener at Vanderbilt, but returned late in the game to direct the game-winning drive in a 17-13 victory. He hurt his foot on the final series against Tennessee last Oct. 27 and need pain-killers to make it through the second half of the season, missing only South Carolina's 27-17 win at Clemson to close the regular season.
Shaw played as long as he could through the Outback Bowl on the bad foot, coming out in the final minute to watch backup Dylan Thompson complete a game-winning, 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left for a 33-28 victory over Michigan.
He had offseason surgery on his foot and missed spring practice. He's had no problems with the foot so far and is the team's second-leading rusher with 282 yards and a touchdown.
Shaw almost never discusses how badly he may be hurting. After the Kentucky game, when he was asked about his shoulder, he said simply, "It's OK. I'll be fine."
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is impressed with Shaw's tough nature.
Said the coach, "I know last week he was a question and it shows, for him to come back as quick as he did, what a competitor he is."