I’ve been in this business for almost 10 years. 

I’ve covered a lot of amazing athletes. I’ve talked to Division I athletes, I’ve talked to typical benchwarmers who got their one shining moment and I’ve talked to everyone in between.

But it’s not very often in a career as a high school sports reporter do you get to cover a journey like Eric Shaw’s.

Back in April, the first big-school Division I program rolled in for the Reeltown senior. A few days later, a couple more came in. Then, as they say, “When it rains, it pours.” It felt like they wouldn’t stop. Purdue, West Virginia, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Virginia, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Tennessee. I mean, the list goes literally on and on.

He got nearly 30 Division I offers and the majority were from Power 5 conference schools.

It was quite the sight to see. He went on visits throughout the summer and kept narrowing things down.

Finally Thursday afternoon, he made his final decision. And I always say I feel like I know these kids after covering them for so long, but Thursday, I definitely had a proud momma moment. Shaw was a freshman when I first got here; I first heard his name when writing about the gold medals he won at the state track and field championships. Now, he’s a senior and making life decisions, and I truly feel like I’ve been through it all with him. When he pulled off his Reeltown polo to reveal a South Carolina T-shirt, I have to admit I got a little teary eyed.

He’s an inspiration to his teammates and to his future fans, and he’ll be a role model for years to come at South Carolina, where he ultimately chose to play college ball.

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Reeltown's Eric Shaw, center, officially made his commitment to play football at South Carolina on Thursday. He was joined by, from left, Godsister Victoria McKeithen, sister Marsheka Shaw, mother Lawanda Shaw, father Eric Shaw and Reeltown coach Matt Johnson.

But what Shaw’s journey did wasn’t just for himself. 

Any time a student-athlete goes on to play at the next level, he or she paves the way for the next person to follow in his or her footsteps. Every time I go to a signing ceremony at Benjamin Russell, either principal Dr. Anthony Wilkinson or athletic director Pam Robinson says they hope the signee will help open doors for a future student-athlete.

But that goes a step further when a school has a guy like Shaw whose recruitment has been heard ’round the college football world. It helps put Reeltown on the map.

“I feel like it did a lot for Reeltown,” Shaw said. “A lot of people around here thought, ‘Oh, I go to a small school; you can’t get seen at a small school.’ And I felt like I did a lot for small schools in general, not just Reeltown. It gave everybody a lot more motivation that no matter where you come from, you can get seen. You just gotta keep working and getting better every day.”

Shaw also is the whole package for a recruit. He’s a multi-sport athlete who is good in school and he’s a respectful kid. And he wants to help pass that message along to the young folks who look up to him.

“I tell them to keep working; no matter small school or not, just keep working,” Shaw said. “You gotta make sure you get that classroom grade too. You have to have that same grind on the field and in the classroom.”

Hopefully getting the Reeltown name out there and Tallapoosa County in general will help student-athletes for years to come achieve the dream Shaw made come true Thursday.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.