STANFORD, Calif. – The day David Shaw became Stanford’s head coach almost two years ago, he said he never wanted to interview for another football job again.
He walked out of his first news conference and up to his new office, where he spent about 90 minutes reflecting with his father, Willie Shaw, who had lost out on the same position to Bill Walsh two decades prior.
“There was a tear or two shed in there,” Willie Shaw said.
At the rate his son is going, job security no longer seems to be an issue. Instead, Shaw will likely have suitors calling from all over soon – though he still insists he’s not going anywhere.
The former Cardinal wide receiver and assistant has not only kept his alma mater a national power, he has started to build his own legacy on The Farm. Shaw won the Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year award for the second straight season Monday, becoming only the fifth coach in league history to take home the honor in consecutive years.
Shaw also has a chance to do something even his more prominent predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, never could: win the league title and secure a Rose Bowl berth when eighth-ranked Stanford (10-2, 8-1) hosts No. 17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3) in the league championship game Friday.
“Very seldom do you get to see somebody live their dream, whether they’re your son or not,” Willie Shaw said. “He’s living that dream.”
While Harbaugh turned Stanford into a surprising contender, Shaw’s steady hand has kept the program going strong since the San Francisco 49ers hired Harbaugh in January 2011.
Shaw led the Cardinal to an 11-1 record before a 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in last season’s Fiesta Bowl. This year has perhaps been even more impressive: Shaw helped Stanford overcome the departure of No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck, seamlessly made a midseason quarterback change from Josh Nunes to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan and overtook Oregon to win the league’s North Division crown.
Shaw’s coaching background has been well documented: he was an assistant in the NFL for Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore before joining Harbaugh as an assistant at the University of San Diego. He joined Harbaugh at Stanford in 2007 and coached receivers and running backs while also serving as offensive coordinator for four years.
Shaw often credits coaching mentors Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Tyrone Willingham, Harbaugh and Walsh, among others. Nobody, though, has had a greater impact on his life and career than his father, a retired NFL and college assistant who had two stints as a Stanford position coach and was a finalist for the Cardinal head coaching job in 1992 before Walsh returned at the last minute.
Watching his son take hold of the Stanford program the last two years – and often helping out as a keen observer during practices – has only made it more special since that first conversation in the head coach’s office, when Willie Shaw remembers how the two talked about “his goals, his dreams, how he has become an extension of my dreams and taking it a step further.”
“At Stanford,” Willie Shaw said, “he’s at home.”
• Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee was named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year and Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton the Defensive Player of the Year. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota took home Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and Trojans freshman defensive end Leonard Williams won on the defensive side.
Lee set conference records with 112 receptions for 1,680 yards to go with 14 touchdowns. Sutton led the Pac-12 with 1.82 tackles for loss per game and also registered 10 1/2 sacks.