When a hero dies, it is never easy to take; The Slippery Rock football team is currently mourning the loss of a hero who was a member of the program, police officer Brian Shaw.
“[It’s] just crushing,” George Mihalik said, who was the head coach for SRU in Shaw’s four years playing. “It’s hard to believe, when I first heard it late Friday night, I kept saying ‘Are you sure? Maybe it’s not our Brian,’ but unfortunately it was.”
Shaw was murdered on Friday, November 17th after he tried to chase down Rahmael Sol Holt, who ran away from an SUV that Shaw had pulled over. Holt was found after a police manhunt that lasted almost four days, and has since been charged with first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, and four other charges. Shaw was only 25 years old.
“It’s unbelievable that we lost such a significant guy,” Slippery Rock head football coach Shawn Lutz said. “They got [Holt] and everything like that, but it still doesn’t bring back Brian Shaw.”
Shaw was a member of The Rock football team from 2010-2013. Shaw was the kickoff specialist for two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conferece (PSAC)- West titles in 2011 and 2013.
“As a football player, he had a tremendous leg,” Lutz said. “He helped us with field positions all the time when I was defensive coordinator, he kicked it into the end zone. He was instrumental in that.”
“A lot of times the kicker position is a little bit more in the background, important don’t get me wrong, but maybe not as interactive,” Mihalik said. “He was as true leader among the team.”
While he was an important member of the Rock football team, the thing that people most remember about Shaw was his intoxicating personality.
“He had the ability to light up a room with his smile alone,” Mihalik said, whose sentiment was echoed by Lutz.
“Brian had no enemies, he was just [a] well-liked individual,” Lutz said. “As a person, Brian was always a great teammate, he was as positive person. Brian knew how to talk to the guys, get them to stay upbeat. He was calm cool and collected.”
A common theme talking to anyone who knew Shaw was that he had wanted to become part of law enforcement for a long time, long before he graduated with a criminology degree in 2015 from SRU.
“He always wanted to help people. During his time as a player, his goal was to become a part of law enforcement. He followed his dream,” Mihalik said. “He was serving his community, that was his whole purpose in life, to help others.”
Shaw was the kind of person who made always made the perfect first impression. Mikalik, who had recruited hundreds of football players in his career, stated that his home visit with Shaw is one that always sticks out to him.
“The very first time I met him you could just see first of all the personality, the smile,” Mihalik said. “And the fact that people would gravitate to him and follow him.”
Mourning the loss of someone beloved is always a complex scenario, but Lutz took time out to have a couple laughs and point out the positive changes that Shaw went through after leaving SRU.
“Seeing pictures of him as a police officer, he really got into strength training, he put on 25 pounds of muscle,” Lutz said, chuckling. “He was always a tall, good-looking, slim guy.”
Another thing about Shaw that exemplified how he effected those around him was the sheer number of people who were in attendance to honor him. When his body was transported to his place of residence in Lower Burrell, Pa., the streets were packed with individuals holding American flags to salute the fallen officer.
“There’s no better example than Officer Brian Shaw who gave his life serving this community,” New Kensington Police Chief James Klein said in an interview with the Washington Post.
The streets were lined again for Shaw’s viewing, which was attended by hundreds of former Rock football players, and thousands of people.
“It took us four-to-five hours to even get through the line.,” Lutz said.
The Slippery Rock football team will honor shaw by having a decal with his initials ‘BS’ on the back of their helmets for the duration of the 2018 season. Lutz also said that the PSAC commissioner will attend one of the team’s first home games for a tribute to Shaw.
According to his obituary, Shaw leaves behind his parents, a grandmother, a brother and his girlfriend.