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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Eric Shaw, right, wraps up Ranburne's Sean Pollard on Friday night.

“Scary” is probably the best word to describe Reeltown’s Eric Shaw.

When the towering 6-foot-4 Rebel senior is flying at full speed with competition on his mind, it’s hard to believe more opponents didn’t just run the opposite direction. Playing at inside linebacker for the Rebels this season, Shaw truly came into his own. He used his size, speed and sheer power to put on some thumping hits and some intimidating tackles.

Along with a slew of other accolades, including a bid to the Alabama Sports Writers Association all-state first team, a nomination to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and a pile of Division I offers, Shaw is also the 2019 Outlook Defensive Player of the Year.

“Being 6-4, it’s hard to create leverage inside the box and I was impressed with how well he played with his leverage,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “He played low at inside linebacker and you’ve gotta do that. He slowed down his feet and started to read stuff instead of depending strictly on athletic ability; he turned into a real linebacker. I was impressed with how he came on and how he tackled the weight room to create that power; he became one of the hardest hitters I’ve ever coached.”

What’s possibly the most overlooked thing about Shaw’s season, which included 132 tackles, 16 for a loss, three sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions, is the fact Shaw was coming off an injury. It’s hard to even remember Shaw missed half his junior season after tearing his ACL midway through the year.

“That really puts in perspective how great and impressive a year he had less than a year after ACL surgery, which people don’t even remember,” Johnson said.

One of the biggest motivators for Shaw during his rehabilitation was his goal of getting to the next level. Junior year is the big recruiting year for top football players and despite missing half of it, Shaw still had a Division I offer roll in from Central Michigan.

“That really opened his eyes to thinking, ‘I can do this,’” Johnson said. “He started believing what I had been telling him forever. I think the ACL injury took his mindset back some to where he had doubts but he recovered so quick, and he made up his mind he was going to get to that level.”

Now a South Carolina commit, Shaw was actually originally recruited by the Gamecocks as a tight end. But likely after seeing his film from this season as well as his bulldozing highlights at the Alabama-Mississippi game, his position was changed to athlete the day he signed his National Letter of Intent.

Despite what Shaw did on the defensive side, he was also a huge catalyst for Reeltown. In the past, just his presence has made huge difference for the Rebels but this season was his best statistically. He finished as by far the leading receiver with more than 500 yards and four touchdowns on 31 catches.

“I don’t know if Reeltown has ever had a player that had close to 550 yards receiving,” Johnson said. “He ended up with that many catches and there were three games where we didn’t even throw a pass. We changed his position on offense to where he’s around the ball whether he’s blocking, we’re play-actioning to him or handing the ball off to him. We put him in a position to be around the ball.”

Shaw helped put the Rebels on the map in more ways than one. Not only did he lead them to their first championship game in a decade, but he also garnered national attention for the school during his recruiting process. Johnson said Shaw is one of the best Rebels to represent Reeltown and the entire community.

“That comes from his home; Wanda and Eric (Sr.), his mom and dad, and his sister (Marsheka), they all have the same traits as Eric,” Johnson said. “They’re as much Reeltown people as you’re going to meet. With everything he’s got, coming from a small school, he’s proud of being from Reeltown and that’s what high school football is all about.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.