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Reeltown’s Eric Shaw (6) was named a finalist for the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 2A Lineman of the Year after leading the Rebels with 125 tackles this season.

When most athletes think about trying to accomplish a dream, their first thought is to push themselves as hard as they can.

But what they don’t know is rest is just as important as working out.

Reeltown’s Eric Shaw had to learn that the hard way.

A stud athlete in multiple sports, Shaw always pushed himself to the limit. He never wanted to give up and he always wanted to do what was best for his team. But ultimately, that nearly cost him.

“Back in the day, I never rested,” Shaw said. “Now I look at rest as just as important as lifting weights.”

Shaw suffered a severe knee injury during his junior year playing football, causing him to miss the last half of the season and the entire basketball season. He ultimately worked incredibly hard to come back and had his best season ever, especially defensively, during his senior season. But it took a lot of balance Shaw had to learn.

“Now I just look to my future,” Shaw said. “I think about South Carolina (where he’s committed to play football) and I don’t want to push myself too hard right now because I know my best football is ahead of me. I don’t want to hurt myself right now and jeopardize my future. Everything I do, I like to be smart. 

“But I still make sure I ain’t trying to be too careful. It’s to the point where I still try to be as careful as I can be to make sure I don’t overexert myself but I also know how important rest is.” 

Shaw’s unlikely comeback wasn’t just because of his own work though. Reeltown uses trainers from Encore Rehabilitation out of Tallassee and its team of trainers who helped Shaw recover is led by coach Chad Abrams.

“They were a huge integral part in Eric coming back from his injury,” Reeltown football coach and athletic director Matt Johnson said. “There were a lot of people in his corner that were pushing him — not just me and the coaches but coach Abrams and his staff at Encore really did a remarkable job.”

With the coronavirus pandemic, Shaw has been tasked with getting ready to play at the Division I level basically on his own. He continues to push himself every day but also keeps in mind what he learned from his athletic trainers and those who helped him recover.

“I’ve been to a trainer so much I got used to what they do to check and make sure I’m OK so I can basically do it myself,” Shaw said. “I really know when something is wrong now, and I can also call them and be like, ‘This is what’s going on,’ and they know how to guide me so I can help myself.”

Social media has also helped Shaw ensure he’s working hard but also working smart. He said he regularly follows trainers on social media for tips to working out at home and he uses the internet to find new drills to keep him from getting bored with the same old drills and workouts every day.

But Shaw has gotten better about finding that balance between wanting to help his team and pushing himself to the limit but also knowing know where those limits are and when he needs to take care of his body. During basketball season, Shaw typically took nights off when he knew he wasn’t up to playing, which was best not only for himself but ultimately his team.

“He set a good example and it was a mix,” Johnson said. “It was a good example to say, ‘I want to do what’s best for my team,’ but it also set a good example to say, ‘I’m not good enough to come back right now; I’m hurting myself which indirectly is hurting the team.’”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.