For freshman running back James Shaw, getting from his hometown of South Central LA to Pasadena was a big leap.
“There is a totally different atmosphere, different group of people,” Shaw said. “I like it though, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s away from the woods so I don’t have to worry about hearing gunshots.”
There are two things people around him seem to agree on. They like him, but can’t catch him.
Shaw starred in a total of six games this previous season and accumulated 569 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He finished the season second in American Metro for yards and rushes.
“I didn’t realize it right away, but when we started putting on the pads I saw that he was like a bullet, he just took off,” his teammate sophomore Anthony Alexander said about Shaw. “You would think that the pads would slow you down but it’s our adrenaline, it keeps us going.”
Of all the places Shaw could go after high school, he chose Pasadena City College (PCC) because of his coach, Steve Majarro, an alumni from his own high school. Majarro told him he was coming to Pasadena and asked him if he wanted to come along. “I trusted him,” said Shaw. Once at PCC, Shaw had to learn a new offense.
As a running back he has to be fast, he must be able to find the gap, the opening, and, as PCC head coach Tom Maher says, “he needs to be brave to run downhill into the teeth of the defense and needs to be able to absorb punishment.” In other words, he gets beaten up and that’s why he needs to get stronger.
He knows it and he’s heading to the weight room more often. He must gain weight without getting any slower. “Staying fast is the easy part,” Shaw said. “It’s something I was born with, but to gain weight I’ll have to work on it.”
Usually kids start playing football at age nine or 10 but he waited until he was 16. “I’m not going to lie, I was afraid when I was very young, afraid of the contact,” said Shaw. “My first year playing was rough, I didn’t know my body and what it could do.”
Everybody knows now. He averaged 5.5 yards per rush attempt. “If every time we give him to football he averages 5.5 yards, that’s pretty good.” Maher said. His teammate Alexander has no doubts, “He’s a beast on the field.”
Shaw didn’t start playing as soon as possible as a child, but he’s not planning to stop any soon either. Although he is majoring in criminal justice and plans to become a probation officer for little kids (“So I can actually help instead of just standing here”), football will keep shaping his life.
“I’ll always stay involved with it one way or the other. It’s a getaway for me. When I play I stop thinking about the bad things, and just focus on this one thing I like to do,” Shaw said. “When I was in my sophomore year in high school I lost my dad and, and the one thing that got me and my dad closer was football, so when I play I’m reminded of him. And I enjoyed it.”
The PCC football Lancers didn’t do well this year. After dropping to the lower American Division of the Southern California Football Association (SCFA), the American Metro League, they dropped four of its last five league games finishing with a 4-6 record.
Eighty percent of the team is made of freshmen and Shaw knew he had to look at those few sophomore that had more experience than him. He decided to take the back seat. “I knew I would be the freshman, and I would listen,” Shaw said.
Alexander thinks it’s now time for Shaw to take more of a leadership role. “If you give him the ball he will run, he will do whatever you ask him to do,” Alexander said. “But next year he will be one of the older players and he should take the lead and setting the example for the new freshmen coming next year. He’ll become more of a veteran kind of player.”