COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As a kid, David Shaw spent countless Saturdays placing his palms to his ears, hoping to shield the noise that erupted from the sea of blue and white surrounding him at Beaver Stadium. It was always more peaceful on the family’s Pennsylvania worm farm, Shaw said.
And now, more than a decade after the Spring Grove native watched his brothers, John and Jimmy, play for Penn State, David sits between the two environments he long viewed as polar opposites — big-time football and the dirt fields stuffed with wigglers.
David became the third and final Shaw brother to suit up for a Big Ten program when he joined Maryland as a defensive lineman in 2014. After a couple years with the Terrapins, Shaw headed West to play for Montana for two seasons, piling up 34 tackles this fall as a senior.
The journey brought Shaw back to College Park this week, where he might’ve stepped onto a football field in a competitive capacity for the final time.
He returned to Maryland’s campus on Wednesday to run through position drills and timed exercises in front of professional scouts at the Terrapins’ Pro Day. Shaw now plans to wait. He’ll answer the phone if a football team — from the NFL, Arena Football League or anywhere else — calls and offers the chance to play professionally.
If his phone remains silent, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm offers a backup plan.
“I’ll go home and see if anything comes from it,” Shaw said while evaluating his pro day performance. “If it doesn’t, I’ll start my life.”
The beginning of Shaw’s post-football life entails digging through the dirt to pull up worms — or accomplishing whatever other tasks make up on the family business’ to-do list. Uncle Jim is Shaw’s dad, and his worm farm has been selling compost and fishing bait in Pennsylvania since the 1990s.
The business expanded to Florida in 2005, and Shaw said he’ll head that way if he doesn’t pursue a professional football career.
“The weather is warmer, so I’d go down South,” said Shaw, the youngest of eight siblings — five girls and three boys. “I’m not going to say It’d take it over, but I’d definitely help manage it.”
The story of how the Shaw family farm grew both worms and Division I football prospects has been well told by other outlets, including The Washington Post.
Shaw remembers making the long treks to Spring Grove to watch his brothers play for Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions. He’d try to watch the games, but the hoopla around him always seemed to divert his attention. The shouting fans, the band’s blaring instruments and the large video screens were difficult to ignore.
“I was really young; my brothers are 10, 11 years older than me,” Shaw said. “So I was just amazed. It used to be so loud when I was a kid, I used to cover my ears and stuff. … I couldn’t really say I was paying attention to my brothers play.”
Still, Shaw picked up enough to follow in his brothers’ football footsteps. He had the towering size college coaches covet and built strength and work ethic during the long days in which he’d stuff his hands into the soil and yank up fists full of worms.
Shaw developed into a three-star recruit at Spring Grove High School under Russ Stoner.
After a coaching change and a struggle for expansive playing time, Shaw left Maryland in 2016 for Montana.
He loves nature, so quiet hikes and treks through national parks highlighted Shaw’s final years of college. He also contended that the Grizzlies offered a strong football culture and a chance to play the sport in front of adoring fans.
Maryland welcomed Shaw back this week to provide him one last whiff of high-level college football, and after weeks of training, he felt he performed well in NFL evaluation drills. It’s not a huge deal to Shaw whether he hears from professional football suitors; he just felt his college career wouldn’t be complete with a pro day.
“I wanted to close the chapter,” Shaw said. “But I’m not going to say I have crazy expectations. I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”
Soon, he might be taking his days one bucket of worms at time.
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