MISSOULA — One hundred 55-gallon drums stacked waist-high sat in a greenhouse on the Shaw family farm, and they needed to be moved.

A young David Shaw, around the age of 12, used nothing but his bare hands and sheer strength to move the 200-pound barrels of soil. 

"When we first started, we didn't have any tractors. We had a wheelbarrow that didn't even really work. I was told to move them all," Shaw recalled of his earliest memory of working on his family's worm farm. "It was 100 drums. I was out there for hours doing it."

Shaw had to drag the drums from point to point at first, but as he became stronger, the future Montana Grizzly defensive tackle learned how to use leverage to pick them up and throw the soil over his shoulder.

"Honestly, I think that's where I got my natural strength from — just working," Shaw said. "That's what happens when you work."

The 13-acre vermiculture wonderland where Shaw was raised is nestled in between a grove of imposing deciduous trees, an oblong pond and a sprawling, public golf course outside of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

Shaw single-handedly credits his blue-collar upbringing for molding him into the young man he is today.

"It really shaped me. Very rarely do you get the opportunity to do a lot of work at a young age," Shaw said. "The biggest thing is the work ethic it gave me. It taught me how to be a hard work and how to not complain."


David is the latest in a long line of linemen to pass through the Shaw family tree.

David's father, Jim, suited up at Colgate as an offensive lineman and lettered twice in 1981 and 1982. Jim was tabbed to the ECAC Division I-AA All-Stars honorable mention list as a senior in 1982. 

His older brothers Jimmy — who grew to 6-foot-4, 270 pounds in college — and John — who topped out at 6-foot-4, 303 pounds in college — both played on the line at Penn State. Jimmy, a defensive lineman, started out at Rice before joining John, a right tackle, in State College. 

Shaw may be the youngest brother, but he's not little anymore. The Grizzly has surpassed his Nittany Lion brethren, as he now stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 290 pounds — down from last year's roster weight at 319 pounds.

Shaw hasn't surpassed his dad, though, who stands at 6-foot-6.

Football wasn't the only thing Shaw modeled after his brothers.

Shaw went to public school until the fourth grade, but decided to be homeschooled like Jimmy and John were. Shaw finished out his high school career being homeschooled, but still played sports for the local Spring Grove High School.

"The guys would always laugh because I would just show up for practice and show up for the games," Shaw said with a laugh. "Nobody knew what I was doing, you know what I mean? Both my brothers did that too. I was just following suit. I had no problems with it. I liked it."

Making friends wasn't difficult for Shaw. Since he'd played multiple sports growing up in the small, 2,000-person borough near York, he'd known many of his teammates for years. 

Shaw started playing football as an 80-pound 9-year-old after watching his older brothers lace up and hit the football field. He was set on playing the sport at a collegiate level too.

"It's like I was following suit in a way. My dad played college football, both my brothers played college football, so I didn't want to be left out," Shaw said with a laugh.

Shaw forged his own path as a junior in high school when Maryland's former head coach Randy Edsall offered him a scholarship. 

Edsall is originally from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, which is just a 12-mile drive from Shaw's hometown.

"We used to play his school where he grew up. So he was kind of a hometown guy too. That was a big thing," Shaw said of his connection to Edsall. "I really liked the coaching staff there. They offered me a scholarship and I wanted to play collegiate ball. And, it was really close. It was an hour, 45 minute drive if you didn't hit traffic. If you hit traffic it was a nightmare."

By the time Shaw's high school career ended, he was a 3-star defensive tackle and was named first-team all-conference twice.


Shaw earned played in seven games, as a true freshman in 2014, recording four tackles — one of which was sack against Michigan State. Maryland's game against Penn State that year was a special one for Shaw. Not only was he facing off against his brothers' alma mater, Shaw's first career start came in the Terrapins' 20-19 win.

"When I went there, they just changed to Big Ten," Shaw said of his early days at Maryland. "They used to be ACC. That was a big thing for me. I got to play everybody my brothers played."

The Penn State game in 2014 boosted Maryland to bowl eligibility, where the Terrapins faced the Stanford Cardinal in the Foster Farms Bowl. 

Maryland lost that game, 45-21, but Shaw missed out on another opportunity that day — to meet his name twin.

Montana's David Shaw isn't the only one in the college football world with that name. Stanford's head football coach is also named David Shaw. 

"It's funny, I was actually think about getting a picture with him," Montana's Shaw said of Stanford's Shaw. "But it never happened."

Shaw's sophomore campaign in 2015 started out hot. He started the first four games of the season and had six tackles before he sustained an elbow injury.

Shaw didn't break his elbow, but the damage was enough for the NCAA to give him a medical redshirt — an opportunity he doesn't take for granted. If he hadn't been awarded the medical redshirt, Shaw's eligibility would have run out after last season. 

"That was a big thing," Shaw said of getting his fifth year. "I went in and made sure I did everything right because I didn't want to lose a year. I took it pretty serious."

Things changed at Maryland during the 2015 year. The Terrapins fired Edsall during the season and hired now-head coach D.J. Durkin — who was recently put on administrative leave — in December of that year.

Shaw played in six games in the season after his injury in Durkin's first year, but transferred to Montana in the spring semester of 2017.


ESPN's broadcast of the Montana-North Dakota State game in 2015 had bigger implications than the Grizzlies could have realized at the time. 

The game didn't put Montana on the map, but it gave the program national exposure to a crop of kids too young to remember the Grizzlies' glory days in 1995, 2001 and Bobby Hauck's string of league titles and playoff appearances from 2003-09. 

Shaw watched Montana's upset thriller over NDSU as a sophomore at Maryland. But when he decided it was time for a new team, he remembered the passion surrounding Grizzly football.

"When I transferred down, I was looking for places where I'd want to play, where I'd want to be around the same players that have the same attitude I have," Shaw said. "I still wanted to play somewhere where it's exciting and where people want to win.

"That's the thing for me. I don't want to just play football. I want to play football where people care about it and there's excitement and the fans care about it, the community cares about it. Montana, that's the place."

Shaw's official visit to Montana sealed the deal, even though it was on a weekday in January before classes started.

He and his host, then-junior defensive end Reggie Tilleman, made the most of it.

"We couldn't find anything to do because it was like a Tuesday before school started, so we went out to The Hub and raced go-karts," Tilleman said. "We were the only two on the track and it was the best thing ever.

Tilleman added: "I had to let him win, because he was a recruit."

Since becoming a Grizzly, Shaw has started in 11 of his 12 games.

In 2017, he notched 22 tackles with 3½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks. Shaw has accumulated four tackles through the one game so far in 2018.

"He has a real physical presence inside. He's a big man and he's got a great attitude and a great work ethic," Hauck said of Shaw. "Hopefully when we get to the end of the season we'll say, 'David had a great year', because he could have a major influence on our success on defense this year."

When Shaw arrived in Montana in 2017, he was the only East Coast player on the roster. Now, he's one of three Pennsylvanians — senior safety Reid Miller of Hollidaysburg and true freshman Milton Mamula of Newtown Square — on the football team.

"They followed me out here," Shaw joked. 

Even though Shaw is 2,272 miles from home, he believes his time at Montana has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Like, when am I going to get a chance at this? A free education, full-ride? I have to take the opportunity, seize the opportunity," Shaw said. "I've never been worried about being far away from home. This time's going to end. Then I have the rest of my life to be at home."

Shaw has taken full advantage what the Pacific Northwest and the Treasure State have to offer.

Outside of seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, one of Shaw's favorite memories of being at Montana was going white water rafting in the Alberton Gorge. 

"That was fun. I got ripped off the raft a couple times. Went jumping off a couple cliffs," Shaw said. "I feel like that's what Montana's about — hiking, rafting." 

He has also expanded his knowledge while Montana. Shaw is a sociology major and is on track to graduate. 

He said returning to the worm farm "is always in consideration," but he still wants to pursue football for as long as he can, and then after that, possibly pursue a career in the criminal justice field.

But wherever life takes Shaw, his farm-bred work ethic will be his calling card. And being at Montana was just another step in his journey.

"My career is coming to an end, but I wouldn't want to play anywhere else, to be honest," Shaw said. "I wouldn't want to play anywhere else but here. I'm happy to end my college football career here.

"It's the chance of a lifetime to get to play football out in Montana and be out here. It's awesome. I'm out in Montana. Nobody would have ever believed that, but it happened."

Amie Just covers Griz football and Missoula-area preps. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.