Planning on winning the Super Bowl’s top honor? Be sure to look up trainer-to-the-studs Tom Shaw first.Pull up Tom Shaw’s website (www.coachtomshaw.com) and you’ll see this testimony in bold, all-uppercase letters: “COACH SHAW IS THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS.” So proclaims Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback who has won three Super Bowl titles, two NFL MVP awards and the love of one supermodel wife.
Clearly, Brady knows greatness. But before Tom Brady was Tom Brady, he was one of Shaw’s NFL projects. Shaw’s business is turning raw football talent into elite athleticism, using his Performance Enhancement Camp at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Disney World to spread his training gospel for gridiron success.
The results? Players who have won 10 Super Bowl MVPs, eight No. 1 NFL draft picks and 122 first-round selections have sought out Shaw’s expertise to help elevate their caliber of play on the football field. Add a few hundred other NFL names (Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Reggie Bush and Santonio Holmes to name a few), and it’s easy to see why Shaw has become the go-to guy for athletes who refuse to settle for merely “very good” status. It’s what keeps two-time Super Bowl champion cornerback Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers coming back every offseason to train — something he’s been doing since he was 13.
Going to the Super Bowl isn’t a cheap ticket (if you can even get a ticket, that is), but some people like to take it further. Suite Experience Group, a business devoted to getting fans into luxury suites at sporting events, estimates that:
• Watching the Super Bowl in a suite with 20 or so of your closest friends will set you back $300,000 to $500,000.
• Having a former Super Bowl winner watch it with you will add roughly $5,000 (for a benchwarmer) to $100,000 (for a star) to your bill.
• Reserving a table at the NFL Alumni Player of the Year Awards Dinner with someone of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s stature will run upward of $10,000.
• Mingling at the Taste of the NFL with the likes of former Super Bowl–winning coach Tony Dungy; Earl Morrall, a key member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins; and Ted Allen, host of the Food Network’s Chopped, as you munch through some of the finest from chefs representing all 32 NFL teams, will cost $7,000 for a table for 10.
“He trains you to train yourself,” Taylor says. “Just trying to make you constantly think about improving. When you make a mistake, you can almost hear him in your head telling you the right way to do it. … I don’t trust many people more than him.”
Shaw’s roots in becoming an NFL guru stretch back to his days coaching high school football and track after earning a degree in exercise science from Central Michigan University. When he moved on to Florida State University as a varsity speed coach, he tutored elite-level athletes like Deion Sanders, an NFL Hall of Famer and one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. Shaw joined the New Orleans Saints in 1994 and then jumped to the Patriots as a strength-and-conditioning coach, earning three Super Bowl rings along the way.
Shaw’s true greatness as a trainer may lie in his ability to spot the faults that others have missed when it comes to speed. For many, it’s a lack of stride length, which he’ll study and tweak until it’s fixed. For others, it’s a concentration on explosiveness that targets focused weightlifting.
It was at his first training camp, in 1994 in New Orleans, where Shaw started honing his SPARQ philosophy (speed, power, agility, reaction, quickness) with a regimen of drills and exercises. A local kid named Peyton Manning attended camp at the age of 16, calling plays with NFL standouts and even dropping spirals into the hands of two-time Pro Bowler Clarence Verdin. A boy among men — but not in Shaw’s eyes. “Peyton had something special beyond arm strength,” Shaw says. “You could tell he was going to be a great pro even without the physical gifts. He was a leader and he wasn’t afraid.” Manning would eventually be drafted No. 1 out of the University of Tennessee by the Indianapolis Colts and go on to win four NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl.
Then there was this quarterback at the University of Michigan who was always losing his starting job. Shaw liked him especially. “Tom Brady had a work ethic like few you’ll ever see,” Shaw recalls. “People don’t always realize his arm strength. I’ve had Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Peyton — and this guy could hurt your hands more from 40 yards away. … Everybody learned from him, and he makes everyone want to work harder.”