Rewind to spring 2019.
Aurora’s Ethan Shaw, then just a sophomore, was competing at the Holdrege Golf Invite, and he wound up in a playoff with Grand Island Northwest’s Marcus Eriksen for the individual championship.
Shaw wound up taking runner-up that day, but he learned a valuable lesson according to Aurora golf head coach Craig Badura.
“He proved to himself that he could do that — play competitively and win at a high-school level, which isn’t easy to do,” Badura said. “To do that as a sophomore was pretty amazing, I’ve only had one other kid do that here at Aurora so that was pretty awesome seeing that.”
Fast forward two years to this past fall.
Aurora lost its first two games to start the Covid-impacted football season and was trailing Scottsbluff by a touchdown at home in Week Three.
“You never know what’s going to happen when you’re 0-2 and you’re down seven points to a really good and quality opponent like Scottsbluff,” Aurora football head coach Kyle Peterson said.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Shaw, then a dual-threat senior quarterback for the Huskies, made a pull read on an option-run play, made one move at the second level against a linebacker and sprinted for a 70-yard touchdown. The run sparked the offense that night. It helped turn things around for a team that would eventually make a run and earn a spot in the Class B state championship.
“Had we not converted there, you never know what would have happened. That was a huge play for Ethan and a huge play for our football team,” Peterson said.
It isn’t common for a school’s starting quarterback to also be the top golfer. That’s the case at Aurora, however, where Shaw helped guide the Huskies to a 9-4 record last fall and now might be hitting his stride on the links. He’s coming off a win at the challenging York Invite last week shooting a 74.
Originally from Cedar Park, Texas, where he lived for six years, Shaw has played on the varsity golf team his entire high school career. During his sophomore year on the football field, a leg injury set him back until he won the starting quarterback job as a senior.
Shaw completed 60 percent of his passes (165 of 273) for 2,008 yards and 18 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. He was quite elusive in the Huskies’ spread-option offense, rushing for 1,092 yards and 14 scores.
Golf and football — a unique combination for many, but not for Shaw. Golf is his passion, though.
“I enjoy golf more. I just kind of picked up on it when I was younger,” he said. “I found a love for it when I was younger more than football. I still really enjoy football, but I enjoy golf a lot more.”
Although Shaw won in York, he doesn’t think he’s playing his best yet.
“I had a lot of opportunities to make better scores out there — I had a penalty stroke and maybe three or four three-puts,” he said. “Other than that, I think I played pretty well but I still feel like I can improve.”
Shaw — who has a golf simulator in his garage — is a student of the game, Badura said. He wants to be as smart as he can be when playing.
“He knows his own game really well and makes good decisions on the golf course, especially this year,” Badura said. “That’s a process that golfers go through in our program, learning just how to not make mistakes.”
Badura said Shaw is powerful with a club in his hands. His short game has grown over the years, too, and Badura was impressed with that aspect in York.
“I’ve never had a kid who could hit the ball as far as him. His swing speed is tremendous and that can be attributed to his athleticism,” Badura said.
It’s athleticism that helped Shaw become a headache for opposing teams, too. He gave defenses different things to worry about while running Aurora’s RPO-heavy attack that gave him the option to give, keep or pass the ball on nearly every play.
“He’s a really talented athlete. He’s way stronger than he looks and he broke a lot of tackles at the line of scrimmage,” Peterson said. “He learned to read the option really well. We ran a lot of option football, especially late in the season. A lot of that were designed runs for him and he thrived in that style of offense.”
There may not appear to be a ton of similarities between golf and football, but Badura sees the quarterback in Shaw come out on the golf course all the time. If you don’t see it, you hear it.
“We’ve talked about that as a coaching staff — there are little things he does at practice and at meets,” Badura said. “The other day at a dual we had in Aurora, one of our players hit a not-so-great shot, and Ethan walked over to him because he was walking the opposite way on the fairway, and he said, “OK, come on, keep your head up.’ It’s little things like that, I’ve never had a really vocal leader in my 11 years here. I see that quarterback in him coming out.”
Peterson knows first-hand what kind of mental toughness Shaw has. The ability to forget bad plays and move on to the next is key not only for quarterbacks, but golf as well.
“In our offense we ask the quarterback to do an awful lot. There’s a lot of demand and pressure on that position, and mistakes are going to be made,” Peterson said. “There are going to be bad throws and bad reads, it’s juts the nature of playing that position. Ethan was able to move on from one play to the next, put that bad play behind him and make the next play, and that’s part of being a golfer. You’re going to have bad shots, that’s the nature of the game.”
So what’s next for Shaw? He wants to qualify for the state golf tournament, something he didn’t do as a freshman or sophomore.
“Last year I was kind of thinking, ‘I need to prove myself,’ and I didn’t get that opportunity,” Shaw said of the golf season that never happened due to Covid. “So this year it’s more like, ‘I’m making it to state and I’m winning this thing.’ That’s kind of my mindset right now.”