Josh Shaw is finally telling the truth about what really happened that August day in which he suffered two high-ankle sprains after leaping from a third-story balcony.
In what was one of the strangest stories involving a college football player since the Manti T'eo fake girlfriend controversy, Shaw originally told USC that he suffered his injuries while trying to save his drowning nephew in a pool. After a few days, the lie was discovered and Shaw admitted he had not told the truth. He was subsequently suspended indefinitely.
Months later, Shaw has spoken at length to the Los Angeles Times about what really happened that day. While he admitted in August he suffered the injuries after jumping from his balcony, the details of why he decided to do so had never come out. Until now.
On Aug. 23, after the annual Salute to Troy barbecue on campus, one week before the season opener against Fresno State, Shaw went home to meet [girlfriend Angela] Chilton, whom he has dated for more than seven years. They started arguing and Chilton ran out of the apartment and disappeared down the hall.
“We just got into an argument just like every couple does,” Shaw said. “Was it loud? Yes. Was it overly loud? I don't think so.”
Shaw remained in the apartment until he heard noise below his balcony. He walked outside to see police cars pulling up on the street. Shaw and Chilton adamantly deny the argument ever became physical — “I would never, ever hit a woman,” Shaw said — but he worried about appearances.
“We were not on good terms when she left, I thought she had somebody call authorities. I was thinking the worst,” he said. “If she did say anything, I'm a black man with dreadlocks, and with everything going on in the country at the time, all that stuff in St. Louis [Ferguson, Mo.] … in my mind, I'm going to leap from the balcony so authorities did not see me.”
Shaw says that as soon as he landed he felt excruciating pain and actually had to crawl to another street before calling his brother for help. His brother, Justin, then took Shaw to his apartment and had to carry him up the stairs on his back. They did not go to the hospital because Shaw wasn't sure how he was going to explain to his coaches how his injury occurred.
It was then that Shaw came up with the story about saving his 7-year-old nephew from drowning by leaping down from a balcony. Shaw told USC officials about the injury that Sunday, and after X-rays revealed that he hadn't broken his legs as he initially thought, Shaw regretted his decision to lie.
Shaw also says he asked USC officials if they could keep the story in-house but was told it was impossible.
"We have our starting cornerback being carted around campus in a wheelchair, people would be seeing it," USC sports information director Tim Tessalone told the Los Angeles Times, explaining why the school knew it couldn't keep the source of Shaw's injury a secret. "We knew it was a feel-good story, but we also knew it was a news story."
Tessalone interviewed Shaw about his story, which Shaw did not change. Eventually the school would publish Shaw's account on its official website and it quickly went viral.
"I saw it on TV and it was like, boom, oh my gosh, wow," Shaw said. "It's not true, what do I do? I didn't know what to do... So many thoughts went through my head. I wish my thought was, 'Tell them now, it's not true!' "
Shaw says fear kept him from coming clean as he thought, "I was in way too deep."
The truth would emerge eventually, though, after USC received calls contradicting Shaw's story and began investigating the incident. Four days after Shaw jumped off the balcony he would admit that he had made up the heroic tale, and he would be suspended by USC indefinitely.
He has yet to play a game for the Trojans this season, though Shaw is back with the team and has been cleared to play. Police and the school have conducted investigations into what really happened that day, and the results could be made public soon. Whether Shaw has played in his final game for the Trojans, he isn't sure, he just hopes he gets invited to the Senior Bowl and can continue playing in the NFL one day.