In 1994, Tony Romo was a nondescript freshman soccer player for Burlington High School. He would go on to become one of the leading statistical passers in NFL history and worked as a color analyst on Super Bowl LIII for CBS Sports.
In 1995, Park lineman Kevin Barry was an honorable mention selection on the All-Racine County football team as a junior. He would be named the Associated Press Player of the Year in Wisconsin one year later, go on to play for the Packers and even have a blocking play named after him.
Might a similar miracle story be in store for Tyler Shaw?
As a center and long snapper for Catholic Central in Burlington last fall, he was only an honorable mention selection on the All-County and All-Metro Classic Conference football teams. But there is lot more to this young man than meets the eye.
He has been rated by Kohl’s Professional Kicking Camp as the eighth-best long snapping prospect in the nation among high school players. And he just signed with Eastern Michigan, an NCAA Division I program in Ypsilanti, Mich., as a preferred walk-on.
This was after he turned down a similar offer from Pitt, the program that Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett once made famous.
Shaw said he has been told he will receive a full athletic scholarship once he earns the starting position at long snapper. That would appear to be after the 2019 season, during which two-year starter Drake Sutton is a senior.
“For Tyler Shaw to be coming in, it’s perfect timing,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said during a press conference last week. “He’s really good.”
During a vintage season, which included St. Catherine’s and Racine Lutheran advancing to the state championship game in their respective divisions last November, who could have guessed that a player of Shaw’s magnitude was out there in the shadows?
His program struggled to a 3-6 record last season one year after it was forced to forfeit its final three games because of low numbers. But through it all, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Shaw was tirelessly working at his Elkhorn home to perfect his craft.
“It’s a neat opportunity for Tyler, but he’s put the work in to get there,” Catholic Central coach Tom Aldrich said. “He can snap the ball. He’s awfully accurate and he’s got some oomph behind it, too.
“We had our punter back 15 yards and he (Shaw) had to take a little bit off for our kid to catch it.”
To say the least, Shaw has had tunnel vision when it comes to his craft. He even didn’t return to Catholic Central’s basketball team this season so he could devote more time to perfecting his technique.
“After school, five days a week, I’m lifting for about an hour to an hour and a half,” Shaw said. “And then I come home and snap for about 45 minutes to an hour six or seven days a week. That’s pretty much year round.”
And, yes, it sure gets monotonous. Shaw’s father, A.G., often fields Tyler’s snaps. But Shaw also has to practice on his own and he works out corrections in his head as he retrieves the footballs he has just snapped.
“It’s constantly trying to fix anything if something is a little off,” Shaw said. “So it’s monotonous, but I’m always tinkering as much as I can when I’m by myself. It’s practicing while I try to figure out what’s going to work the best.”
The Kohl’s Kicking Camp has certainly noticed how far he has come. It awarded him a five-star ranking as a long snapper and provided this observation on its website:
“Shaw continued to impress during the Kohl’s Midwest Showcase. He put his power and accuracy on display during the charting portion of camp by scoring on all but one snap and finishing with an average snap time of .68 seconds. He has great size and is very efficient with his snapping mechanics. Shaw is a plug and play snapper for any school in the country.”
Will long snapping turn out to be Shaw’s shot at an NFL tryout in next four or five years? Don’t dismiss that possibility.
Long snappers often come from college programs that are hardly considered national powers. Take Matt Overton of the Jaguars, who played at Western Washington. Or Kameron Canaday of the Steelers, who played at Portland State.
“If I was big enough and athletic enough, I would love to play Division I football as a linebacker or lineman,” Shaw said. “I’m not that fast and not that strong. But I can do this. And I can still be part of a team and go out there 20 plays a game and be a football player for at least four more years.”
After that, Shaw isn’t ruling anything out.
“The NFL is the end goal,” he said. “Realistically, I’ve done some pretty crazy things. Like this year, I was a finalist for the Under Armour All-America game (which was played Jan. 3 in Orlando).
“I think it’s pretty realistic because I’ve talked to a lot of other long snappers. There’s a huge community of us. A lot of people don’t want to go to the NFL. They don’t care about it.
“But that’s something I want to do and I believe it’s completely attainable.”