Rock Chalk Weekly: The Consummate Journeyman
Written by Kylee Kennedy, Kansas Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Hola, Bonjour, Hello. These are just a few of the greetings junior safety Tevin Shaw has picked up while traveling around the world. Shaw grew up in just one location, Piscataway, New Jersey, but he has visited 14 different countries. Those experiences have shaped him into a man who is comfortable with the ever-changing landscape of his life.
At age nine, accompanied by his mother, Darlene and a few other family members, Shaw began his journeys around the world. His maiden voyage was a cruise around the Caribbean.
“Getting on the huge boat was my first memory of traveling,” said Shaw. “We were down in Florida. I just got on the boat and seeing a boat that big with everything on it, it had a pool on the boat, it was crazy for me to experience at such a young age. We went all through the Caribbean. We spent one day in Jamaica and then the next day we were in Bermuda. It was all so fun and just amazing to me to see how different places can be when they aren’t even that far from the United States.”
Most people dream of visiting different countries, learning new languages and cultures. It’s not always a reality, but as the great Augustine of Hippo once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel it are only reading one page.”
Shaw has certainly begun reading a novel. He has visited fantasy destinations such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad; even a trip around Europe. Most of his travels have been of the vacation variety as his parents, in particular his mom, wanted him to learn other cultures and enjoy all that the world has to offer.
Living the life of leisure while sailing the Caribbean is certainly enough for anyone to want to continue traveling. Shaw explained that during his journeys one of his favorite things to do is take in the different landscape of each country.
“I am always intrigued by the different ways cities and towns are set up in the other countries I have visited,” said Shaw. “For example, in Hungary the streets are extremely narrow and it looks so different than a city in the United States.”
While the scenery is something that Shaw enjoys taking in when he is traveling, he also always makes a point to try out the local cuisine.
“Having been to several countries I have tried a ton of different food,” said Shaw. “One thing I will never forget was eating a crepe. It tasted like a funnel cake with fruit in it, it was the best thing I have ever tasted to this day.”
Shaw has truly enjoyed being a tourist and all that comes with that, but according to the soft spoken journeyman, the best part about visiting all of these new places was that he has done it with his mom. The bond they have formed from traveling the world together is something he cherishes.
His mother instilled her love of travel in him. She loves to visit the islands, be a beachgoer, put her toes in the sand and relax. It’s a pastime Shaw looks forward to passing along to his own children; a four-year old daughter, Courtney and an 11-month old son, Isaiah.
“Traveling has helped me have a deep bond with my mom,” said Shaw. “She doesn’t get to participate in sports with me, but this is something we have always done together. I would really like to give my kids the same travel experience I have had. My daughter is always asking to go to new places. I would definitely like to take both her and my son to all the islands and parts of Europe I have seen. I want them to see all of the beautiful parts of the world and I want to be the one to show them.”
While Shaw is thankful for the bond he has formed with his mom as part of his travels, he also credits his opportunity to explore other parts of the world for his easygoing nature when it comes to taking on multiple tasks at one time and embracing change.
“I definitely think having traveled so much has helped make the independent person I am today,” said Shaw. “Even though I was with my mom and family when I was traveling, I had to be able to take care of myself in completely foreign places. It was a lot to take in at a young age, but now a lot of the adversity I face is easier to deal with. If I can figure out where I am going in Austria, finding my way around Lawrence, Kansas can’t be too hard.”
Shaw demonstrated some of that multitasking ability as he was an outstanding player on both sides of the ball in high school. He set seven Piscataway High School (PHS) records his senior season as a running back. Shaw recorded the most rushing years in a game (304) in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title game win. He also scored three touchdowns in the game, leading to the team’s victory. Shaw ran for 1,596 yards and 24 touchdowns and was also PHS’s top defensive player, playing both linebacker and safety. He holds the school records for career rushing yards (2,848), rushing touchdowns (45) and longest rush (98 yards).
However, Shaw was not known for just football before he came to Kansas. An all-around athlete, he helped PHS win back-to-back North 2 IV football titles, and was also a decorated wrestler. Holding the PHS record for wins with 120 and compiling a 25-0 record as a senior wrestling in the 185 pound weight class, Shaw led the wrestling team to the County Championship in each of his last three years, earning MVP honors in 2011.
While most of Shaw’s travels have been of the leisure variety, he has also traveled to other parts of the world thanks to his athletics prowess. Shaw had the opportunity to visit Russia to compete in a world wrestling tournament. Though his competitive wrestling days are now behind him, he still has a special place in his heart for the sport. He frequently visits local Lawrence wrestling meets just to watch and reminisce.
In addition to taking on multiple positions and even several sports while growing up in New Jersey, Shaw again showed his willingness to try new things when he chose a destination for college.
Shaw moved 1,300 miles and 20 hours away from home to become a Jayhawk, but it was an easy move as he has spent lots of time much farther than that from his native New Jersey.
“I wasn’t worried at all about going to school far from home,” said Shaw. “Traveling so much at a young age made me more of a flexible person as far as being comfortable being away from home. I am definitely not someone who wants to be stuck in a bubble.”
Once Shaw settled on relocating to the Midwest to attend KU on a football scholarship, life’s course has taken yet another turn of events for the junior where athletics are concerned. Ever the journeyman, he came to Kansas as a running back, but quickly was moved to the defensive side of the ball where he has settled in at safety. Shaw now sees the majority of his action as KU’s nickelback, doing his best to terrorize opposing offenses as part of the Jayhawk defense.
Despite being thrown into a new position, Shaw once again easily transitioned, making appearances in all 12 games in both 2013 and 2014 for the Jayhawks. In 2014, he started eight games and finished the year with 36 total tackles. Shaw was named KU’s Special Teams’ Player of the Week versus Oklahoma State where he blocked a kick, had four tackles and added a fumble recovery.
Not only has he grown comfortable playing nickelback for the Jayhawk defense, but Shaw has found his niche academically at KU. His chosen major of study is sociology, inspired in part by his travels and the opportunities he has had to see so many different cultures.
“My major is definitely related to my travels,” said Shaw. “In sociology we obviously learn a lot about societies and how they operate. We learn mostly about American society, but it is nice to be able to apply my experiences with other countries and cultures to my studies.”
As far as academics go, Shaw also learned how to manage his time wisely. Traveling to so many destinations and excelling at multiple sports can bring on quite the load, especially while also trying to balance academics. These are time-management skills Shaw believes helped prepare him for life as a collegiate student-athlete.
“We traveled to a lot of tournaments and they would last several days, and a lot of times I would get back really late,” said Shaw of his high school wrestling career. “I think that type of schedule helped prepare me for the college load, specifically traveling with wrestling. I traveled internationally once, and even within in the United States we traveled every other weekend and I would have school work to take care of while we were gone. Those experiences helped me learn to manage school, as well as my sport.”
Of all the people he has encountered during his lifetime of his many travels, a man Shaw met in Puerto Rico made a lasting impression on him with a small, but valuable piece of advice.
“A friend of my family, an older guy, taught me the phrase, ‘Ponte las pilas’ which means ‘always stay on your toes,'” said Shaw. “I always think about that phrase. Whether I am out on the field, working on a class project or spending time with my children, I try to be prepared for anything that could possibly come my way.”
He has visited 14 countries, traveled halfway across the country to attend college and even moved across the line of scrimmage as a Jayhawk football player. It appears Shaw always manages to find a good balance, while staying on his toes.
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