Vince Lombardi once said that it wasn’t about whether you got knocked down; it was about whether you got up.
Jo-El Shaw was a gifted athlete in high school at Woodland Hills in Pittsburgh. That success carried into college at Lackawanna Community College and Kent State University.
Shaw was a member of the Woodland Hills team that finished 11-1 and qualified for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs in 2015.
Shaw was not just a dominant force offensively his senior season after recording 25 total touchdowns and running over 1,000 yards. Shaw was able to get it done defensively as well. As a senior, Shaw was named to the 2015 All-State Class AAAA Team as a linebacker.
Shaw reflected on his time at Woodland Hills High School and how football coach George Novak’s strength program helped prepare him for college.
“Coach Novak always made sure he had one of the best strength programs in America for us in high school,” Shaw said. “So when we get to college, most coaches don’t have to teach us form besides the little tweaks.”
George Novak built a strong foundation for these young men as they prepared for the next steps in life. The players, regardless of where their journey took them in life, were built tough both mentally, and physically.
Following graduation from Woodland Hills, Shaw attended Lackawanna Community College.
Shaw was coached by the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame coach Mark Duda.
In 2016, Shaw ran for 601 yards and seven touchdowns. During that season, the Falcons finished with a 10-1 record, with their only loss coming in the Valley of the Sun Bowl against Mesa Community College.
Shaw continued to be a dominant force offensively after running for 848 total yards and rushed for 11 touchdowns during his sophomore season. Due to the success expressed on the field, Shaw was named Northeast Football All-Conference First Team that season.
Being coached by Mark Duda was an experience Shaw will never forget. The relationships built expanded further than just football.
“It was one of the best times in my life; honestly, there we started a true brotherhood, and he always demanded the best from every last one of us,” Shaw said.
Shaw continued his journey by finishing his final two years of eligibility at Kent State University.
In addition to KSU and the Orange, Shaw received offers as a junior college prospect from Bethune-Cookman, Coastal Carolina, Robert Morris, and Massachusetts, per 247Sports.com.
“I chose to go to Kent because I wanted to start something with coach Sean Lewis,” Shaw said. “Lewis was the offensive coordinator at Syracuse when I committed there out of high school (in 2016).”
Shaw played in 10 games and made four starts for the Golden Flashes in 2018. During the season, Shaw ran for 657 yards on 138 carries and seven touchdowns and caught nine receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Shaw ranked eighth in the Mid-American Conference in all-purpose yards per game (84.0) and rushing yards per game (65.7). Shaw also became the first Kent State player to run for three touchdowns in their debut season since Eugene Jarvis in 2006.
That success on the field was because Shaw stayed true to himself. He kept his legs churning and ran straight every down.
Shaw had the desire to beat his one on one match up consistently. He had that desire, which allowed him to have that driven mentality to succeed.
Shaw spent two seasons with the Golden Flashes. During that span, his best memory is scoring three touchdowns on Homecoming in front of his family.
However, while that memory is a positive one, Shaw knows his worst moment stands out the most.
“My worst stands out so much to me, and it is the best life lesson I’ve learned,” Shaw said. “Being dismissed from the team, I let my family down, and because of that loss, it will never happen again.”
Shaw is a gifted athlete. It was evident at both Lackawanna Community College and Kent State University. He leaves everything he’s got on the field for himself and his teammates.
With the NFL Draft taking place virtually in just a couple days. Shaw doesn’t allow those memories to dictate his future. Instead, his focus relies on training and improving his game.
Shaw’s offseason focus won’t just make him a better athlete, but it will make him a better person as well.
“My mental toughness,” Shaw said. “There were a lot of in-house things I had to deal with by myself so that I could grow better as a man, and because things aren’t always going to go my way.”
The NFL Draft takes place virtually on April 23 through April 25.