Harold Shaw looks back on 1997 season, college memories
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Only one day separates Golden Eagle fans from celebrating the 1997 C-USA Championship reunion during the 6 p.m. Saturday game versus North Texas. As the team prepared for its throwback uniform game, SouthernMiss.com spoke with "The Big Train," Southern Miss running back and M-Club Hall of Fame Class of 2016, Harold Shaw.
Shaw, a native of Magee, Miss., was the top high school prospect in the state and ranked as high as No. 20 nationally. He emerged as one of the team's top offensive stars in 1996 when he rushed for 491 yards on 178 carries and scored eight touchdowns while leading the team to a share of the first Conference USA championship. As a senior, he rushed for 1,045 yards on 245 carries and scored 16 touchdowns while leading the team to the outright Conference USA championship and a 41-7 victory over Pittsburgh in the Liberty Bowl.
Shaw was drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots, where he played for three years. Three out of four years from 1998-2001, Southern Miss had four players taken in each draft.
On how the team improved from what was a C-USA championship squad in 1996
"I felt like we were closer together as a family and as one. Guys coming up my senior year, like Terry Hardy, Patrick Surtain, Jamaal Alexander became young men. They took the game seriously. We all wanted to win Conference USA. We thought coming into that season, we would have that opportunity if we came together as one."
On his 127-yard rushing game in the win at Illinois, its first of the season
"To be honest, I haven't really talked about this with anyone, but they had a good running back too [Robert Holcombe, future second-round draft pick and Super Bowl champ]. They all talked about him and how they were gonna beat us and such. I kind of took that as a personal challenge for myself to play him and I did."
On the team's early challenge against defending national champion Florida
"We knew we had a good team. We knew we could compete with anybody. We had three or four turnovers in the redzone that cost us the game. We just had to correct ourselves the following week, and we were off and running."
On one particular memory that still stands out to him
"I think about when we played Tennessee [led by quarterback Peyton Manning]. We gave them a challenge. We played pretty well but lost at the end by a few touchdowns. After the game, the Tennessee players came to us and said they knew we would win our conference and that we were good. That was a lot of respect. We played a good game, ended up losing, but we felt good."
On the 33-0 dismantling of Houston that clinched the C-USA crown and Liberty Bowl invite
"We didn't want to lose, period. It was our last home game, and we wanted to put a show for the fans. Fortunately, we did."
On who he keeps in touch with the most from the 1997 team
"I talk to Lester Pope, my offensive lineman. We talk every year when I come home, we hang out. I call Terry Hardy a lot, talk to Pat Surtain sometimes. Of course my brother (Eddie) and I do, too! Marchant Kenney and I have spoke a little more since I got into the M-Club Hall of Fame last October. It's been nice."
On what he is up to now
"I live in Rhode Island. I do a lot of charity and celebrity work. I'm retired now, and I try to give back. That's one reason why I can't go back this weekend, I actually have two events."
On the throwback uniforms and other memories he has of the school
"I've been looking at it. I'm 43 years old now, and I'm like, 'how did I play running back in college?' I miss USM. It taught me a lot of things, like how to be a good leader, keep me out of trouble, teaching us how to give back. I give a lot back. That's what I learned from Southern Miss. I was a five-star recruit out of high school and I could have gone anywhere, but I chose this place because of when I went up to visit I saw the way people acted towards each other, the players and coaches. I made the right decision to go there."