Amazing. Special. Servant. Caring. Loving. Example. Giving.
Jaguars linebacker Tim Shaw describing his mother, Sharon.
About ten minutes into an interview with Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Tim Shaw, he grabs his cell phone and pulls up a photo. A smiling three-year old African American boy named Quentin appears on the screen sporting an official Jaguars helmet and wearing an authentic jersey with Shaw's number 57.
It takes a photo to really digest what Shaw is trying to explain about his mother, Sharon, and his life growing up in Livonia, Mich. Quentin, who lives in Detroit, is one of 45 adopted babies that lived in the Shaw household for a period of time.
Sharon has served as a foster mother for infants dating back to when Shaw was in first grade. Sharon takes in foster babies and cares for them, often for one month all the way to six months until the child is adopted by a permanent family.
"We always had a baby around growing up," Shaw said. "My mom loves babies. She has a special way with them."
That's an understatement. It's hard for Shaw to remember a long period of time when he didn't have a baby in the house. Sharon would step up when the adoption process came to a stall for various reasons.
A mother could be prepared to give birth and have already made the decision to give the child up for adoption and a family has yet to be found. Or paperwork issues could cause a delay.
This is when Sharon steps to the forefront. She works with family services and brings the baby directly home from the hospital and provides the necessary care until told otherwise. Shaw and his brothers, Steve, Pete and Andrew, would immediately make the baby a part of their lives.
"It was unusual looking back on it now," Shaw said. "For me it was normal."
Most people hear about the kids that are put up for adoption while entering middle school or high school. Parents could have passed away or other factors enter the decision. With an infant, the process is shorter, maybe taking only a month or two. Shaw has seen many reasons for these adoptions, from a financially strapped mother to drugs playing a factor.
"It's a lot easier for babies to be adopted than it is grown kids," Shaw said. "If people want to adopt they typically want a baby. A family has usually been found and if not, then one will be found soon. It's just a matter of the court and paperwork."
Shaw remembers the moments when his family had to give the babies to their future parents. Of all the babies, they have stayed close with only a handful.
"It's like they say, 'If you really love something then you have to let it go,'" Shaw said. "A couple of times we would have babies for a long time and it would be really tough. It was tough for my mom every time."
Shaw grew up surrounded by family members who taught him the importance of giving back. He attended Bible camp every summer in Little Lake, Michigan from a very young age all the way to high school. His grandparents lived in the area and his parents would join him for the summer. Sharon would serve as a cook at the camp while his father, John, did office work.
The lessons Shaw learned from his childhood were invaluable.
"You learn patience, how the focus is not on you," Shaw said. "It definitely made me a more well-rounded person."
Shaw is looking forward to getting married and having kids of his own.
"It's funny because I see some of my friends having babies now. I am better with their kids than they are, but that is just experience," Shaw said. "When I have kids of my own it will not be a new experience."
Shaw did have a new experience last month when he took his first mission trip with Jaguars chaplain Anthony Johnson, teammate Paul Smith and NFL players James Lee and Nate Jones. The group traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica to assist Score International, an organization that focuses on short-term mission trips and uses athletes to spread the Gospel.
The organization purchased property in Costa Rica and was in the process of building a new facility for young single mothers that included a gymnasium, soccer field and Bible school. The group spent two full days building a fence around the property that was more than 400 yards long. They covered every detail, from digging the posts to mixing the cement.
"Costa Rica is beautiful," Shaw said. "It was a big project. If you go there you will see every building has bars on the windows and doors. There are fences around everything."
All of his experiences have helped him on the football field, especially last year when he was unemployed for nearly four months. He was a fifth-round pick by Carolina in 2007 and played in 14 games as a rookie. After spending all the preseason with the Panthers in 2008, he was waived during final cuts.
It was the first time he didn't have a job to do, so he bounced around from Charlotte to Livonia and spent time working out at his alma mater, Penn State. He just wanted to be ready when he was called.
"If my identity was only football I would have been a mess," Shaw said. "We all know it's not going to last forever. If I'm blessed to play 11 years I will be very happy. We all know the odds are not in that favor."
He wasn't ready to give up on his dream after just one NFL season. The Jaguars called and signed him to a contract on November 26 and he saw action on special teams in the final three games. He finished with three tackles, but would relish an opportunity to compete for a spot at linebacker.
"Being selfless is one thing, but I have goals and aspirations like everybody else," Shaw said. "I will never tell you that I am happy just playing special teams. I want more and I see more for myself. I really want to be that every-down player and I think I can be. I'm always going to strive for more because there is no point in me settling for where I'm at."
He is taking part in the club's offseason conditioning program and getting to better know his teammates that he met only briefly in 2008.
"From everything I have heard about Coach Del Rio, I think I am his kind of guy," Shaw said. "I know for a fact that any team wants a guy that will work hard and do what they are told and make plays. That's how I view myself. Every opportunity I have been given I have made plays."
When the time does come to hang up the cleats, the options are unlimited for the 24-year old. He earned his degree in management from Penn State.
"A year ago I would have told you I want to do one of two things; either run a youth center or manage some type of golf resort," Shaw said. "The trip to Costa Rica opened up my mind to what I can do more mission-wise. Maybe that's something I'm supposed to be doing. I am growing and really learning where my passion is and I what I really want to do."
One thing is for certain, he will be following in his mother's footsteps. It just might not be with babies.
"That was my mom's way of serving. There was a need and my mom used her ability and gift to love a kid," Shaw said.