Josh Shaw seemed to have everything going for him. He was a star player on the University of Southern California Trojans, and in August 2014 had even been voted a team captain. He looked forward to a lucrative career as a professional football player.
Then, on the evening of August 23, 2014, he sustained high-ankle sprains in both his legs. Such injuries could take months to heal and temporarily put his football career on hold.
But it wasn't the injuries themselves that attracted attention. It was his explanation of how he got them.
Shaw told officials at USC that he had sprained both his ankles when he jumped from a second-story balcony to save his young nephew from drowning in a pool. The school officials were so impressed by what he had done that on Monday afternoon they posted an account of it on the team's website, along with some glowing remarks about Shaw's personal character:
Shaw Suffers Injury While Rescuing Nephew
On Saturday night, USC senior cornerback Josh Shaw was named a team captain at the annual Salute to Troy dinner. For Shaw, leadership is bigger than how he acts on a football field, and he put that to the ultimate test later that night.
While attending a family social function at his cousin's apartment in his hometown of Palmdale, Shaw looked on from a second floor balcony to the pool below and saw his 7-year-old nephew, who cannot swim, in distress without help nearby. Shaw instinctively leaped off the balcony, landing painfully on the concrete below.
He was able to crawl into the pool and ushered his nephew to safety. Despite the intense pain in his legs, he was then able to grab the ladder and lift himself out of the pool with his upper body.
Shaw's nephew Carter is a bit "traumatized," but physically okay. Shaw was taken to the hospital and subsequently diagnosed with two high ankle sprains, which will sideline him indefinitely.
USC coach Steve Sarkisian added some comments of his own, "That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside. But that’s the kind of person he is."
When interviewed by ESPN, Shaw said, "I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew. My ankles really hurt, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the best trainers and doctors in the world. I am taking my rehab one day at a time, and I hope to be back on the field as soon as possible."
Online forums quickly filled with praise for Shaw. "What a great man. Very selfless," said one poster on Reddit. "Goddamn hero. This is a trojan. Fight on, Josh," said another. The NCAA tweeted about Shaw's bravery to its 1.2 million followers.
But not everyone was happy about USC's press release. Specifically, Shaw himself had some issues with it. He called the school to complain that it sounded melodramatic to say that he had crawled to the pool and asked that the school change the phrase to "made his way to the pool."
But the next morning, more serious issues began to be raised. Numerous people called the school to question the veracity of the story, pointing out that a police report had noted Shaw's possible involvement in an incident at the Orsini Apartment Complex near USC's campus at 10pm on Saturday night.
According to the report, the police had received calls about screams coming from an apartment at the complex. When they arrived, they found the apartment empty, but witnesses said they had seen a black man with dreadlocks leaving the apartment by a balcony. The resident of the apartment later arrived and said that the description of the possible intruder "sounds like my boyfriend, Josh Shaw."
Had Shaw been at a family gathering Saturday night, or had he been at his girlfriend's apartment, jumping down from a balcony (for some unknown reason)?
When asked by school officials, Shaw stuck to his tory. His older sister, Asa, even corroborated the tale.
But the questions persisted, and the doubters grew louder.
Then, on wednesday morning, Shaw requested a meeting with USC officials, to which he brought a lawyer. At the meeting, he admitted that his tale of heroism was a lie.
USC immediately deleted the story of Shaw's heroics from its site and issued another statement calling Shaw's story a "complete fabrication." Shaw was also suspended from the team indefinitely.
Shaw released a public statement through his lawyer:
"On Saturday, August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall. I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong to not tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part."
The mystery that remained was how exactly did Shaw injure himself? What was he doing at the apartment complex that he felt he needed to lie about? Shaw declined to answer. However, his attorney insisted that "nothing criminal happened."
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