When Connor Shaw was introduced as South Carolina’s Director of Player Development back in January, the former Gamecock quarterback listed four areas he was going to center his teachings around: career building, mental health, life skills and mentorship.
That second pillar has never been more important than now.
Since football activities and on-campus classes have been canceled for South Carolina student-athletes because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shaw has played a central role in Gamecock players and their mental well-beings while they are spread around the country.
“Connor Shaw is meeting on [video teleconference platform] Zoom with our team once a week to go through the mental health issues and developing a routine of staying positive and staying connected,” Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp told reporters during a Monday teleconference. “Social distancing is more physical distancing. [Connor is] making sure our team is staying connected. He’s doing a great job of that.”
“Everyone’s experiencing disruption of their lifestyles, but staying positive always makes us stronger,” Shaw said in a video posted to Twitter. “… We’re limited on what we can do and where we can go, but with uncertainty it always helps to shift our focus back to what we can control.
“… I try to carve out time to work remotely. I try to exercise daily. Get creative with my family. Keep my sanity. Keep in touch with my circle and force myself to limit screen time.”
Shaw (2010-13) — who led South Carolina to a 27-5 record, including a 17-0 record at Williams-Brice Stadium — then challenged viewers to “be better than our circumstances.”
“Gamecocks are resilient,” he said. “We’ll get through this together.”
Muschamp also mentioned the importance of Dr. Kevin Elko, someone who has gained national notoriety for his work in leadership, goal setting, and various other motivational topics that South Carolina football has leaned on in the past. Elko has also worked with several NFL franchises and seven college football national championship teams.
“Dr. Kevin Elko is meeting with our leadership group once a week to talk about leadership and adversity in crisis,” Muschamp said. “And I think that’s been very beneficial for us. He always gives us a great message.”
For Muschamp, his message to players, and to everyone listening, is to keep their spirits up, stay positive and stay safe. He also noted how mental health is “critical.”
“I think the number one thing is [having] a daily routine, [knowing] every day what you’re doing,” the coach said. “ … We’re meeting with our players daily. Our academic people are meeting with our players daily.”