Happy landing in Cleveland for Connor Shaw

New team, wife and baby in future for Gamecocks QB

jkendall@thestate.comMay 19, 2014 

Browns Manziel Football

Connor Shaw (9) watches as Johnny Manziel hands off during a Cleveland Browns rookie minicamp practice.

MARK DUNCAN — AP

Connor Shaw caught his breath Monday for the first time since the final day of the NFL Draft.

“Last Saturday was kind of the longest day of my life,” South Carolina’s all-time winningest quarterback told The State on Sunday evening.

Shaw went undrafted in the seven rounds of the draft but agreed to a free agent deal with the Cleveland Browns almost immediately after it concluded. In fact, the deal was set in motion before the draft finished.

“The Browns had said they were looking to take me later in the draft and then they called me and let me know they had just traded away their last pick that they were leaning to take me with, but that if I was not taken, they would like to have me on board,” Shaw said.

Shaw talked to “a few” other teams about free agent deals but couldn’t shake a good feeling he had had about the Browns since a pre-draft visit to their Ohio facility.

“I really loved it, love (general manager Ray) Farmer. I can remember leaving the facility and telling my parents that I could really see myself coming back,” Shaw said.

So Shaw signed with the Browns despite a quarterback depth chart that already had four players on it, including this year’s first round pick Johnny Manziel. Cleveland also had Brian Hoyer, Tyler Thigpen and former Texas star Vince Young on the roster when Shaw agreed to his deal, although Young was cut soon after that.

“I figured if they were going to bring in Johnny and shape their whole system around Johnny that I’m a very similar player to him,” Shaw said. “I think it would work in my benefit to go there and push Johnny and compete with him. They are expecting him to be the future and if my role is to be a backup and compete for playing time, whatever it may be, Cleveland is a great fit for me.”

With Hoyer and Manziel considered locks to make the roster, it would seem the like there’s only room for one more quarterback in Cleveland this fall, which means Thigpen, a Coastal Carolina product, and Shaw are ostensibly fighting for a job. Only, it doesn’t feel that way to Shaw.

“Tyler has been a godsend to me,” Shaw said. “He’s taken me under his wing. He’s been here three weeks. He’s been in the NFL seven years. He’s a great person, always makes sure that I am good. He’s told me three or four times he’s really excited for me. Hopefully, we can be teammates come fall.”

Shaw and Thigpen are both represented by South Carolina-based Turner Sports Management.

“On the outside looking in, I can see what people say about competing for a roster spot, but I honestly think that Mr. Farmer has a plan for the guys who are on the roster right now,” Shaw said. “He’s knows what he is doing. This group of quarterbacks is not only good players but great people. I think Mr. Farmer has a long-term plan for all of us.”

Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, has gotten most of the attention among Browns’ rookies, which has been fine with Shaw.

“He’s been a good teammate the past week,” Shaw said. “He’s not at all what I expected. He’s really a cool person, just a normal guy. He’s not a bad person by any means.”

Shaw, who is wearing No. 9 with the Browns (His familiar No. 14 is retired in Cleveland to honor Paul Brown), has been in Cleveland since the day after the draft. His first four days were filled with rookie development, and Friday through Sunday was the Browns’ rookie minicamp.

“I had a really good three days of practice, learned a lot, performed well,” he said.

Shaw, who is living in a hotel and sharing a suite with West Virginia defensive back Darwin Cook, spent 12 hours a day at the team’s facility in his first week, he said.

“The first few days was a grind,” he said. “Once I started getting on the field and playing football again, it’s refreshing to be honest and it’s good to be back playing again. I feel good. I am a little tired, but after this weekend I feel like I have some momentum going into OTAs.”

The Browns’ veterans will join the rookies starting Tuesday for OTAs, which continue through June 12. From there, Shaw will have two more weeks of rookie development before getting a break – not that it will be much of a break.

Shaw, who recently told the world via Twitter that he and fiancée Molly Smith are expecting a baby girl, will marry Smith in the Dominican Republic in July.

“It’s going to be a wedding and a honeymoon and a baby moon all in one,” he said.

Smith will move back to Cleveland with Shaw in August, and the business of making the team will begin again in earnest.

“It won’t surprise me a bit if he ends up in the league for several years because he’s the perfect reserve quarterback in the sense that he provides mobility and he’s a guy that studies hard and will be prepared each and every week,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “I really was hoping he was going to get taken in the last two rounds. I just love the guy. Tough, competitive, he’s a winner.”

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