USC CB Josh Shaw: Hero Or Hamburger ?

I wrote this story on Josh Shaw after it was reported that he saved his nephew from drowning  and wrecked both of his ankles jumping off a balcony. I regret writing it now, in light of new developments that Shaw might be a big-talking fraud, trying to cover up a robbery or domestic abuse situation. 

In football, the words “warrior” and "hero" are frequently used, almost cliché terms describing players who accomplish awe-inspiring feats on the field. Of course that gridiron game — where guys travel at the speed of light and crash into other men for a check — takes guts, toughness and sacrifice of your body, but calling athletes "warriors" tends to minimize the truly heroic deeds of our military and everyday people facing horrific, life-changing situations.

USC cornerback Josh Shaw is a captain and a leader on the Trojans squad, but nothing the senior does on the field will speak volumes as to his caliber more than his recent off-the-field feat.

Shaw was attending a family function at a cousin’s apartment in his hometown of Palmdale when he saw his nephew, who can’t swim, struggling in the pool. He told USC’s website that he instinctively jumped from the balcony onto the concrete below and crawled to the pool, where he pulled his nephew Carter to safety. With his ankles in tremendous pain, Shaw still managed to grab the ladder and pull himself out of the water.

Shaw is out indefinitely after badly spraining both his ankles, but his Superman act ended about as successfully as anyone could hope for. The fact that he didn’t break, fracture, crack or crush anything is remarkable. Shaw didn’t hesitate to go airborne when he saw his nephew’s life in the balance.

In a world where people are increasingly self-centered and insensitive to other people’s despair, and tend to pull out a camera phone instead of helping when people are drowning, burning or being assaulted, it’s refreshing to hear a story like Shaw’s.

A large majority of dudes would think twice before leaping off a balcony – especially cats playing for a legendary program and dreaming of an NFL career.

Shaw didn’t think for a second.

He just reacted like he was hawking a post pattern, blitzing a QB or blowing up a ball carrier. A selfless action like Shaw’s validates his teammates choosing him as captain and new coach Steve Sarkisian's judge of character; something USC has been criticized for in the past as the program’s prestige and dominance has dropped a couple notches in recent years.

“I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew,” Shaw said. “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.”

Shaw, a senior, was supposed to be an integral part of USC’s youth movement as Sarkisian re-stocks and reloads and restructures the program by signing one of the top-rated recruiting classes in 2014, including 18 high school players and a junior-college transfer. Sarkisian says he has plans to play at least 10 freshman this season. Shaw’s senior leadership was vital to the transition.

Sark knows losing Shaw is demo-hit to USC’s secondary, but under the circumstances, Shaw gets a pass, and the HC didn’t seem surprised by Shaw’s dynamic rescue. “That’s the kind of person Josh is,” he said.

If you never rooted for USC because you don’t like the program’s arrogance and shady ways, Shaw gives everyone a reason to root for the Trojans at least one time this season. When he runs out the tunnel on two healed ankles, ready to rip and rock for the first time all season, everyone with a child should be a Trojans fan.

Until then, TSL says, “Quick recovery,” to a true hero.



An even more unfathomable story would be if Shaw made this all up. Reports are surfacing now that Shaw might have fabricated the heroic tale to avoid being implicated in a robbery that occurred that same day. His sister Asia Shaw, who immediately cosigned his story, talked to reporters on the steps of her parents' home, where Shaw claimed to have saved his nephew, but her comment that "it's all speculations" comes amid reports that the story of her brother's heroics was a lie and that he actually hurt himself either running from police or "shimmying" down a fire escape near his girlfriend's apartment. 

I wonder what Shaw actually told the cops when they questioned him? 

I tell you, it doesn't get any weirder than this. After praising Shaw earlier in the week, USC HC Steve Sarkisian is now telling media they should hold off on the story because school officials are "vetting" it out (5:00 mark).

"Josh Shaw has been a good leader for us," Sarkisian said,"and he's given me no reason not to belive his account of what occured, but we need to know…Josh won't be available until we find out."



Some people will say, "I knew it was too good to be true for an athlete to be so selfless." The prominently and proudly displayed story about Shaw, which was initially printed on USC's website now seems shady as well. Either USC knew about his shenanigans and helped in creating this false story, or Shaw's family is helping him lie about the incident. Either way this story goes from potentially ESPY worthy to dirty dealings if Shaw did fabricate the entire situation, and his rep goes from pillar of the community to lying, selfish, stupid punk. 

Let's hope there was at least a drowning seven-year old involved, but that's looking iffy at this moment too. Stay tuned for more of this evolving soap opera. 


JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.