David Shaw Fulfills Destiny as Stanford Head Football Coach
Shaw looked out, his eyes welling, and smiled.
The job he's always wanted, the only job he ever wants to have again, is his.
"Since the day I started coaching, this is the job that I knew that I wanted," Shaw said. "Today is finally the day."
Shaw, a Stanford alum and Bay Area native, gets a four-year contract to replace Jim Harbaugh, who left the Cardinal program after leading them to a 12-1 season, a No. 4 national ranking and a win in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. Harbaugh is now the head coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
Shaw knows Stanford. He played there. His father coached there. He's coached there. And now he's the head coach, shepherding a program with suddenly high expectations and big prospects.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is back, the prohibitive favorite for the Heisman Trophy nearly 11 months before voting takes place.
Shaw has a good dose of returning talent on both sides of the ball and a group of nearly two dozen recruits on the way in this weekend.
He will have to convince them that he is the man for the job, the same way he convinced Bowlsby.
He wasn't convinced it was a job that he even wanted. He did not want to be a football coach when he graduated from Stanford in 1992.
Shaw had finished his college football career (he was a wide receiver) and figured he'd end up working a job in the financial sector.
He'd done a summer internship at a local financial firm, had a line on a few promising entry-level jobs.
And then a friend of his dad, former NFL player and longtime coach Willie Shaw, called and offered him an assistant coaching job at Western Washington. He figured he'd give it a chance for a while and then "go find a real job."
He went home to his mother Gay, and she was less than enthused.
"I told her I was going to go and coach at Western Washington and immediately she started crying," Shaw said. "She said, 'Haven't you seen what's happened in our lives? Don't you understand what this profession does to people and their families?"
And she sent him to talk to his father. He took the job and hasn't left coaching since, with stops in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before he joined Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, the path that led him back home.
Gay Shaw was in a different place Thursday. When her son called her on Wednesday to tell her the news, the first word out of her mouth was "Wow."
"You hope it's going to happen and you pray to hope it's going to happen," Gay Shaw said. "I've been a football coach's wife for 35 years, so this was something I never really thought about.
"When there's a chance it could actually happen, you're afraid to get too excited."
The poignant twist here is that Shaw's father was a finalist for the head coaching job at Stanford back in 1992 after Denny Green left to coach the Vikings. Shaw was on staff, an in-house contender along with Ron Turner.
But Stanford had the opportunity to bring back Bill Walsh to The Farm. And Walsh didn't retain Shaw on staff.
David Shaw was on the team as a wide receiver.
"Yeah, it's interesting, it's interesting," Shaw said. "He and I have talked about that."
"It's come full circle," Willie Shaw said. "It's so rewarding to see this happen 18 years later. Now I'm thinking, I didn't get it before, maybe that was why. This is even more rewarding than if I had gotten it. I'm really so proud."
Willie Shaw said his son is prepared for this job at this place. David Shaw knows Stanford as well as anyone could. He knows the quirks, the history, the expectations and the things that make it a distinctive place in college athletics. It is why Bowlsby called his hiring "the most logical step that we could take."
"This place is still my favorite place I've ever coached," Willie Shaw said. "The first time he came here he was three years old, in 1974. Ever since then, this has been the place for him. In the eighth-grade, he asked me, 'How do I get to Stanford?' That's been his goal in the back of his mind the whole time."
Luck was among the small group players who met privately with Bowlsby before Shaw's hire. Bowlsby had talked to the whole team as he started the interview process. Some players had already come out publicly in support of Shaw, something that made Shaw bristle, particularly as other in-house candidates were being interviewed.
"He's a Stanford man," Luck said. "I've known that since he was recruiting me out of high school. He has a deep and abiding love and respect for Stanford -- you can really tell ... the players are behind him 100 percent."
Shaw wants to be a Stanford lifer. He said he wants to be one of the 25-(years) and-up club along with women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, baseball coach Mark Marquess and tennis coach Dick Gould.
"I went into the interview with the mindset that I wanted this to be my last head coaching interview ever," Shaw said.
Shaw said he wants to put the 2010 season -- one of the best in school history -- "on a shelf for everybody to admire."
But it's time to get back to work on a football team that doesn't need to be rebuilt, but retooled.
"Two years of good football is not enough," Shaw said. "It's been two good years, but that's not what we are aiming for. We are aiming for consistency, we're aiming for a team that going to make Stanford proud every time we step on the field and we are going to be ready to compete against anybody that's out there."