Vol Robert Shaw finds success in Dallas

Marvin Westwestwords

One of my new year’s resolutions was to say, now and then, something nice about someone involved with or linked to Tennessee football.


After extensive research, I do believe I have finally found something.

Back in the good old days, when assistant coaches could talk and information flowed more freely, there were some interesting recruiting stories.

Perhaps you remember Robert Shaw, Tennessee football center, all-Southeastern Conference, 1977-78.

Assistant coach Gary Wyant spotted him as a high school sophomore in Marietta, Ga., and convinced him that his future was with Tennessee. As a senior, there was no question in Shaw’s mind, but his father refused to sign UT scholarship papers.

At issue were Alabama roots. Robert was born in Tuscaloosa. His grandfather had prayed to live long enough to see Robert play for the Crimson Tide. The whole family favored Alabama.

Forget it, kid, you’re not going to Tennessee.

Can’t happen.

Young Robert left home and moved in with a friend. He was going to establish identity as an adult. Dad started to think his boy might be serious. Little by little, the father eventually changed his mind and grudgingly said he would sign. Robert called UT to set up the meeting, at the Holiday Inn.

“Coach Wyant got to wondering what the boss, Bill Battle, would say about a signing party and a bill for refreshments from the Holiday Inn bar,” recalled Sid Hatfield, recruiting coordinator at the time. “We decided to outline the situation for Coach Battle.

“His immediate reaction was an emphatic no, as in no way. I reminded him that Shaw was 6-4, 235 and a center. Coach thought about it a minute and said we should hurry on down to Marietta and get it done. The bar bill wasn’t too bad, but the party moved on to the dining room and ate up $700.”

Shaw played well for the Volunteers. He became a captain. As I recall, he also triggered a pre-game skirmish at Vanderbilt, in Battle’s final game as Tennessee coach.

Shaw was drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. He was expected to anchor the offensive line for several years, but a knee injury ended his promising career – three seasons, 33 games.

There was one classic. Shaw helped Tony Dorsett gain 160 yards in a wild-card playoff victory over the Los Angeles Rams by blocking and blocking again middle linebacker Jack Reynolds.

“Shaw played as fine a game as I’ve seen a lineman play for us,” said Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

Dallas line coach Jim Myers said amen: “An excellent player, as good a competitor and hard worker as we’ve ever had. He was a street fighter with an abundance of courage. He just stood out above all the rest.”

Robert Shaw

Shaw tried and tried to make it back to football. He returned to school and earned a degree in architectural design and management. He went to work in construction, $15,000 annual salary as an on-site assistant superintendent.

“I never admitted to myself that I missed football. I worked seven days a week for about 70-75 hours. All I did was work. I didn’t want to think about it.”

He advanced in job status. He used some of his NFL money to start his own company. He became a developer. Along the way, he married and helped raise three children.

His business prospered. He was in early in the transformation of a severely blighted area now known as Uptown Dallas. He was named to the city’s “Top 40 under 40.”

Shaw did some really big mixed-use projects, more than $100 million each, retailing and offices on the bottom, apartments up above.

“Roger Staubach has been my partner for 30 years,” said Shaw.

They are just finishing a joint venture with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a 17-story luxury high rise within walking distance of the team’s world headquarters.

Robert and Roger both smile when they talk about their relationship. Shaw says Staubach has the big money for big investments. Staubach says Shaw has the smarts that lead to results.

Shaw said he was responsible for Staubach’s longest loss in his NFL career. Robert snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head. Roger ran it down and attempted to kick the ball in a favorable direction. The play lost 40 yards.

Shaw said Staubach does not hold grudges.

Football is long ago but Shaw, 61, still pops into the spotlight. He has been inducted into the Texas Realtors’ Hall of Fame.

Marvin West invites reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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