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SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2007
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Hard work leads to Shaw’s big break
SEC official put in time as youth official

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

There’s an old saying that hard work pays off.

At least, that’s Steve Shaw’s old saying. When Shaw, an 11-year veteran football referee in the Southeastern Conference, served as speaker for Saturday night’s Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame banquet, he emphasized how his own hard work helped lead to his big break.

Shaw told about refereeing a youth league football game years ago in his native Birmingham and working it hard. His work caught the eye of longtime SEC official Dick Burleson, who was there to watch his nephew play.

“He came over and told me what a good job I did after the game was over,” Shaw said. “Through that chance, he helped me pave the way to get me to where I am today.”

Shaw is a former football player who was part of Berry High’s state championship team in 1977. He refereed prep games for 15 years before joining the Gulf South Conference, where he officiated three years. In 1996, he joined the SEC. “Refereeing college football is something that I’ve always really wanted to do,” Shaw said. “The GSC was a very competitive conference when I was there. Bobby Wallace was leading North Alabama, and Bill Burgess was leading Jacksonville State. There was a lot of good football.

“Things in the GSC really helped me prepare for the SEC.”

Since becoming a member of the SEC officiating staff, Shaw has had the opportunity to referee many big games, including two national championship games, his favorite being the 2000 Sugar Bowl when Florida State beat Virginia Tech.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work in a lot of great games,” Shaw said. “The 2000 Sugar Bowl with Virginia Tech and Florida State was probably the best because it was the year that Michael Vick came out of the shadow. The environment was incredible.”

Not only has he had the opportunity to cover numerous big games, but has been in contact with some of today’s leading NFL stars.

“I had the opportunity to be around both Peyton and Eli Manning,” Shaw said.

“The first time I ever saw Donovan McNabb play, I knew he was going to be an athlete. David Pollack was also another one.”

Officiating has become a year-round job for Shaw. He and his crew have three meetings, one of which includes physical fitness training.

Even though to most it might seem that referees show up five minutes before game time, Shaw is quick to say that is not so.

“We leave on Friday nights and meet in the town of the game we are officiating,” Shaw said. “We watch game films that night to help us get prepared for the next day’s game. On Saturday, we’ll show up five hours before game time so that we have plenty of time to prepare for that day’s game.”

Shaw said he enjoys being part of the SEC officiating staff because of all of the tradition it brings.

“Every Saturday in the SEC is great,” Shaw said. “Any stadium is a great to be at. The fans in the SEC are unmatched.”

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