When we look back at the golden age of South Carolina football 10 years from now and talk about what made the 2011-2013 Gamecocks great, chances are the first name that will come to mind will be either head coach Steve Spurrier or defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
It should instead, however, be quarterback Connor Shaw.
Shaw has amassed a 26-5 record as a starting quarterback in Columbia, including an unblemished 17-0 mark within the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium. Included in that record as a starter are two victories over Clemson (2011 and 2013), which helped extend the Gamecocks' streak to five straight over their intrastate rivals.
He's led the program to previously unreachable heights.
The Gamecocks won 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history in 2011 and 2012, and they could repeat the feat this season if they're able to topple Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
|Connor Shaw Stats by Season|
|Season||Comp. %||Pass Yds.||TDs||INTs||Rating|
Perhaps unfairly, Shaw gets labeled as a game manager. A quarterback who thrives on efficiency, makes smart decisions and relies heavily on the running game to lead his team to success.
All those things are true, but they leave out his biggest attribute.
Never was this more apparent than late in the third quarter on the road against Missouri, when—while nursing a knee injury—Shaw entered for an ineffective Dylan Thompson with his team down 17-0. All he did was complete 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards and toss three touchdowns in the Gamecocks' 27-24 double-overtime win.
He's a player who's played through injuries throughout his career, put his team ahead of his own well-being at times and led by example.
He may not have the hardware of Manziel, the national title rings like McCarron or the career records of Murray, but he's redefined the perception of the program.
South Carolina isn't an afterthought anymore. It's a power.
It has Shaw to thank.
He'll wrap up his career against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day in Orlando.
"It's going to be a little emotional, the last time suiting up in a Carolina uniform," he said in a video released by South Carolina. "Just find a way to win."
Shaw has been finding a way to win throughout his entire Gamecock career, and there's no sense in doubting him now.