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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Eric Shaw throws up a block against Mississippi's Janari Dean during the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic on Saturday afternoon.

In just a few short months, Eric Shaw will be getting ready for his first season at a Division I football program. 

Committed to South Carolina, the Reeltown senior will become no stranger to playing amongst the best of the best. But he officially got his first opportunity to see just what it might be like when he played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic on Saturday afternoon in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. 

Not only did Shaw get a chance to play alongside some of the top seniors in Alabama and against the best seniors in Mississippi, but he also spent the week leading up to the game in a college-like setting. Shaw and the Alabama all-stars practiced twice a day and had team activities by night and ate all their meals together as well.

“It was a good taste of college,” Shaw said. “It’s been great because it’s been a lot of competition all week. This is the most competition I’ve been around with the best players in the state. I learned a lot from the coaches; they taught me a lot this week and I’m going to take it to the next level.” 

Shaw also got a taste of what it could be like at college when coaches can switch up your position at virtually any time. Selected as a tight end, Shaw was moved to outside linebacker during the first practice and stayed there through the game. Although he was a clear defensive standout for Reeltown this season, leading the Rebels in tackles, he played at inside linebacker. So he had to learn an entirely new position in the five days leading up to Saturday’s game.

“Really, I had to learn it from the ground up,” Shaw said. “Coach taught me everything from the basics, from the stance and everything. He said I caught on pretty fast and I feel like I did pretty good out there.” 

Shaw was one of the standouts for an Alabama defense that held Mississippi to 177 total offensive yards. Although Shaw’s stats didn’t necessarily jump off the page like they did during his time at Reeltown, his three tackles all came on Mississippi third downs and all of them were for a loss. He had two tackles for a total loss of 11 yards and he also nailed an 8-yard sack.

Shaw also fielded one punt return.

Although he’s been recruited to South Carolina also as a tight end, Shaw was glad to have the chance to play on the other side of the ball.

“Coach said he saw the first five plays of my film and they do a traditional tight end here,” Shaw said. “With the offense they run, it’s more of a blocking tight end and he said he didn’t want to waste my talents on the team. He wanted me to go in at outside linebacker because he knew I could do it.”

Another benefit the Alabama-Mississippi game gave Shaw was the ability to connect with new teammates. A few of the other Alabama all-stars were former competitors for Shaw and Reeltown, but after spending a week practicing together, Shaw said they felt just like teammates.

“It was cool because I got close to everybody here,” Shaw said. “I played against (Lanett’s) Kristian (Story) but it was really an honor playing with him because he’s got all the records now. He’s going to go to Alabama and do his thing, and I could keep going with so many others. It really was an honor playing with all these boys.”

There was an obvious chemistry between the Alabama all-stars on the sideline as they were laughing with each other and cheering each other on.

“We grew closer and closer all week and now it’s to the point that these are like my brothers,” Shaw said. “On the sidelines, I felt like they were my brothers and I’ve been playing with them all my life.”

And possibly Shaw’s best opportunity during the game was to put on his Reeltown helmet one last time and represent his hometown, even if he was one of the few players for Alabama from the smaller classifications.

“Reeltown has been so good to me, the whole Reeltown community,” Shaw said. “To come down here and represent Reeltown, it’s an honor for me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be down here.”  

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.