When USF senior running back Marcus Shaw speaks, he isn’t very loud and it isn’t in many words. Standing 5-foot-9 at around 180 pounds, he doesn’t stand out in the huddle.
It’s when he touches the ball when he “leads by example.”
“I feel like if you produce, people will follow what you do,” Shaw said.
Though the offense as a whole still has kinks to work out during the bye week, after three weeks of play, averaging 129 yards through the air per game, Shaw has been producing since the first play of the season.
The running back out of DeSoto County High School in Arcadia is currently the sixth leading rusher in the NCAA with 394 yards this season on 56 carries. Shaw had 391 yards combined from 2010-12.
Some fans had never heard of Shaw before the 2013 season. Spending most of his time on the sidelines since 2010, Shaw didn’t make his first starting appearance until 2012 for three games.
After an 80-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field in USF’s season opener against McNeese State, Bulls fans were shocked as they stood on their feet to cheer on the new feature back in coach Willie Taggart’s first season.
Shaw said since his arrival at USF, he’s been prepared to make a difference.
“I’ve been ready since I got here,” Shaw said. “Just took somebody to put me in the game.”
Taggart was that “somebody” for Shaw, who said the hiring of the former coach from Western Kentucky, made him ecstatic.
“I was happy,” Shaw said. “One of the best days of my life.”
And Shaw has good reason to deem that one of his life’s highlights.
Apart from USF being close to his roots in Arcadia, Shaw said there wasn’t much of a reason to go to USF.
After former USF coach Jim Leavitt was fired, Shaw committed to Western Kentucky for a couple of days before switching back to the Bulls.
While pass blocking was one of Shaw’s weaknesses, he said he simply didn’t fit into former USF coach Skip Holtz’s offensive scheme.
“I knew about Leavitt and liked him,” Shaw said. “Didn’t know too much about Holtz. Guess I found out the hard way.”
Shaw did see action in his first three seasons as a Bull though, but with 83 carries, 391 yards and three touchdowns to show for it, the 2013 season with Taggart is where he’s flourishing.
“I can play football like I used to in high school,” Shaw said. “Ground and pound.”
Though Shaw’s name is just now being introduced to some Bulls fans, his success didn’t come out of nowhere.
With the DeSoto High Bulldogs, Shaw put up numbers that his coach at the time, Gary Morton, referred to as “video game numbers.”
His first year in varsity was as a sophomore in the 2007-08
season with 147 yards in two games played — the following two years is what has Morton dubbing Shaw as “the best
running back to come to Arcadia.”
With 5,082 yards on 497 carries and 65 touchdowns, averaging 10 yards per carry, Shaw lived up to the name.
“He’s a phenomenal runner (and) has great vision and great speed,” Morton said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever coach another running back like him. He just did things you can’t really coach.”
Once he graduated and settled in at USF his freshman year, Shaw said he thought it was going to be easy.
“When you come out of high school and go to a big university, everyone thinks you’re going to play early because you were the man in high school,” Shaw said. “But it’s different. You have to sit back, watch and learn.”
This was a process Shaw said he found difficult. He recalled times where his “feelings were hurt” for not being the “top guy.”
That attitude, along with simply not taking his classes and meeting times seriously enough, is what Shaw said held him back those first three years in college.
“I used to have a bad attitude,” Shaw said. “Outside of football, I realized I needed to be on time for class. It seemed like it made football easier once I made it on time to class, meetings and things like that. Less worries on your mind.”
Shaw said his girlfriend, along with Taggart, said an attitude adjustment was
He even recalled Taggart saying he can’t ‘act like he’s in Arcadia.’
According to Taggart, it seems as though Shaw took those words to heart.12