Terrill Shaw, Rampaging Receiver
While attending high school, he didn’t play football until his senior year, but thanks to a little help from inside the family, Terrill caught the attention of colleges across the country.
Terrill Shaw gets to experience the playoffs from the perspective of the #1 seed.
Image courtesy of Tom Ando
After being red shirted his first year at Southern Mississippi, Terrill got good looks from his coaches, even starting a game in his freshman season, and by the time he was a sophomore, Terrill began the season as a starter. Teammates started calling him Walter Payton due to his strenuous work ethic. By the time he was a senior, fortune had turned as fellow receivers Todd Pinkston and Sherrod Gideon, both in the NFL now, took the main spotlight limiting Terrill to returning punts, and blowing his chance to impress scouts.
“When I graduated, the stats weren’t what the scouts felt was enough to determine the type of receiver that I was, so I didn’t get a shot going to someone’s camp,” said Terrill. “But I felt that I was the best receiver there, granted Todd Pinkston and Sherrod Gideon are great players themselves. We were all great players, but I felt like I was definitely the best receiver there and so did some of the defensive backs that went against us daily, but sometimes, that’s just the way some things go, and I didn’t get my time to shine in college.”
After college, Terrill moved to New England to stay with Harold, who was now on the Patriots. Each week, Terrill would catch his brother’s games, but the routine grew exasperating.
“I got tired of going to the games and feeling like ‘I’m better than those guys,’ so I got back into it and I would’ve love to play pro football, but I never got invited to camps for whatever reason, so I figured that this (Arena Football League) would be the best road to take.”
Terrill began sending tapes out to teams, and after a short talk with former Buffalo Destroyers coach Dave Whinam, Terrill decided to attend an open tryout.
“So I went and tried out and there were two people that were invited to the camp. There were guys there that you can tell that they haven’t played football in six or seven years, and then there were guys that were good enough to play somewhere and because I was the best receiver there, I stayed, but I was aware that there were only 24 guys, so I had a chance of being cut.”
Terrill stayed on and went to camp with the Destroyers, but he believed he was going to get cut so much that he called his parents to break the bad news.
“The players were telling me that I was doing a great job and everything, but I’m a self critic,” said Terrill. “I couldn’t stand when I dropped a pass. I couldn’t stand when I would run a route and fall down. But I was thankful for the chance to see if I was really good enough to play. But following the final cut day, I found out that cutting me was the farthest thing from the coach’s mind.”
When the season began, coaches hesitated to play Terrill due to his lack of experience in the league. In his first regular season game, he scored his first touchdown, despite playing only three plays, but wouldn’t see action for the remaining two weeks of Whinam’s coaching career in Buffalo. Then, Ray Bentley stepped in and took over as head coach.
The Destroyers had been struggling at 0-4 when Bentley came in, which convinced him to go with the more experienced players. But after four more losses, and Buffalo’s playoff departure almost imminent, Terrill stepped in as a starter. The Destroyers would rip off five wins in Terrill’s first five arena football starts, finishing the season with 36 receptions for 490 yards and 10 total touchdowns.
“I was definitely doing well. I became one of the go-to guys during that period.”
Terrill was doing so well, that coaches promised him a fair shot at competing with Bobby Olive for the OS spot.
“When the first depth chart came out, Bobby (Olive) was starting specialist, and I was backing up, which is fine because I love competition,” said Terrill. “At that time I felt I was good enough to take Bobby’s position, but I didn’t realize that Bobby was the franchise player for us (there are two players from every team with a franchise tag) so I didn’t feel comfortable with the fact that if I went out there during camp, and showed that I was the better receiver, that they would put me second just because of his salary. I didn’t feel comfortable with that, but I did great during camp, so did Bobby, and truthfully, when camp was finished, we’re both good players, but with Bobby’s experience I think he should’ve been the starting specialist when the season first started.
“There are some things that Bobby brings to the table, and there are some things that I bring to the table, but with what Bobby did for the Destroyers last season, I think the best thing would’ve been to start Bobby. That’s great,. Bobby is the specialist, but I still felt truthfully that I was the better receiver, and if Bobby was the best receiver, I was definitely the second best receiver.”
Terrill would start Buffalo’s second pre-season contest in Oklahoma City, and once again when his career was going great, it took a downward spiral.
For reasons unknown, Terrill was unexpectedly cut from the Destroyers roster. Unsure of what was going on, or why, Terrill headed off to San Francisco to train, expecting to get picked up within a matter of days, but that was not that case at all.
“I was in San Francisco sending tapes to teams and calling teams, and I felt that what I shown last season during the ball games I played in that it wouldn’t be that tough to get picked up, so I thought within two weeks I should get picked up. Two weeks came and left ”
“Tony Kimbrough, who I was very good friends with during the time I was a player there, called some teams for me and the first team that he called for me was Grand Rapids, and I was contacted by the coach.”
The call however was an offer to play on the scout team, which didn’t interest Terrill, but Rampage injuries presented an opportunity.
In his first game as a member of the Rampage, Terrill caught six passes for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and his numbers have stayed consistent to say the least.
“I want to get better every game, either running routes, or catching, or blocking, just getting better in some kind of way and I think I have done that so far (in Grand Rapids).”
Last week Terrill returned to Buffalo and proved himself to be better than any of Buffalo’s receivers by catching eight passes for 91 yards and four touchdowns, but his most crucial play was on the final drive when he made a third down catch to end the Destroyers playoff dreams.
“I knew there was a reason that I was cut (from Buffalo), and I went to a better team. I’m comfortable with the guys,” says Terrill. “This is better than what I expected when I was first released from Buffalo, especially when I was sending tapes to teams that aren’t very good. Grand Rapids finished in first and I think that speaks for itself.”
Another reason Grand Rapids is succeeding is the quarterback Clint Dolezel, who threw 80 touchdowns this season. Dolezel also thinks very highly of his new go-to guy.
“Since he’s gotten to Grand Rapids, he’s been our MVP no doubt,” said Clint. “He makes everybody around him better. If you play man against him, he’s going to beat you by himself, and if you play zone against him, all of our other guys will beat you, so he’s definitely what you want in an OS.
Terrill finished his eight-game season with 75 receptions for 1002 yards and 23 touchdowns, earning him candidacy for breakout player of the year. That could lead to the end of his up and down career, and also opening a door to live out his dream: to play in the NFL.
"Touchdown" Tom Ando is a free lance writer from South Buffalo, NY and has been covering the Arena Football League in one capacity or another since the 2000 season, when he was 17 years old. Tom Currently writes for Sports & Leisure Magazine in Buffalo covering the NLL's Buffalo Bandits and NCAA Division I football. In 2001, Tom was the only writer in the country to cover the Houston "Travelin' " Thunderbears, where he befriended his mentor John F. "Hondo" Hahn.