Toledo running back recruit Shaw has big-time potential

Willie Shaw chose Toledo over Illinois and Nebraska among other schools.

By Brian Buckey / The Blade
Fri, 22 May 2020 16:22:59 GMT

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With the allure of Power Five schools tempting his fate, recent University of Toledo running back commit Willie Shaw defied convention and surprised his mom on Mother's Day by choosing to continue his football career with the Rockets.

Shaw, a talented 6-foot, 195-pound backfield force from Brother Rice High School in Chicago, cut his list of potential schools down to Illinois, Nebraska, and Toledo.

But the bond he built up with the Rockets coaching staff separated Toledo from the pack.

“It’s not always about the name of the school, the brand, the logo, or the conference,” Shaw told the Chicago Tribune recently. “It’s what’s best for you and your development. The connection I built with the Toledo coaches I could tell was very genuine. They liked the way I play and wanted me on the team.”

For a program like Toledo with a long list of star running backs from Wasean Tait to Chester Taylor to Kareem Hunt, Shaw is the type of talent who can continue that wave of top performers at the position. Shaw, a three-star prospect with a 0.8592 rating from 247Sports, immediately moved to the top-ranked spot in Toledo's talented 2021 recruiting class.

Shaw is the 21st-ranked player in the state of Illinois, according to 247Sports, and is the 53rd-ranked running back in the country.

“I think he developed a really good relationship with the coaches,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke told The Blade. “He had some Power Five offers from the ACC and Big Ten. I think he wasn't wowed by that. He was just looking for what was the best fit for him and his future as a student-athlete. He is really excited about going to Toledo, which has had a lot of success running the football and had some guys that have gone on and played at the next level, which is a goal of Willie's. He felt really wanted. All those things come together and he's ready to get to his next chapter.”

Shaw suffered a serious ankle injury in the final game of his freshman season at Brother Rice. Badke said Shaw was just getting back acclimated at about 70 percent his sophomore year and was still at about 85 percent his first year as a varsity player his junior season.

He still rushed for 1,281 yards with 14 touchdowns and added 19 catches for 271 yards last season, when Badke said he wasn't yet operating at full-go.

“This year, we're looking for him to be 100 percent and beyond,” Badke said. “He's really fast, and I can't wait to see him when he's going to be 100-percent healthy. He's very big. He's very physical. You can put him in the slot, and you can obviously put him in the backfield and at any time he can go. He's a game-changer. When he gets in the open field, as he's getting to be 100 percent here, good luck trying to catch him.”

Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt told the Chicago Sun-Times that Shaw is “the best 2021 pickup” by any MAC school.

“He's really not that far off from four-star territory,” Helmholdt said.

The recruiting process was a grind for Shaw, and with his decision made and that process in the rear view, he politely declined an interview with The Blade.

“It got a little overwhelming,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “I made a choice that’s best for me and my future.”

Badke believes Shaw made the right choice and continues to be impressed by the character he displays.

“He's a very, very humble young man,” Badke said. “He's a team guy and he's a quiet leader. He's a great teammate and is a guy you definitely want on your ball club not only because of his talent, but because of his character. He represents Brother Rice and his family very well in everything that he does. He's a quality young man. He's got a tremendous upside and he is going to do a lot of great things there. Toledo is very fortunate to get Willie Shaw.

“What he embodies with character and family, Toledo really got a good one.”