Many of us are fortunate to have a strong and influential person come into our lives. For Murphy High School, the Murphy Panther football team and the City of Mobile, someone had the good foresight to hire Robert Shaw in 1962 as coach, physical education and history teacher. He would certainly set the path for Murphy over the next 20 years.
A native of Potts camp. Miss., Robert Shaw attended Magnolia High School and played both offensive and defensive tackle. He made both All State and All American his senior year. He also played basketball, baseball and ran track. After graduation in 1957 he went to Miss State where he played off guard, def tackle, nose guard and LB. He graduated in 1962 and headed to Mobile.
After assisting Lefty Anderson for 6 seasons, he was named head coach at Murphy in 1969. But 1969 was the time of school integration. And Murphy High school was a tough place to be. The school needed a strong and influential person and they had one in Robert Shaw. After many of the school’s black players quit the team, Coach Shaw went to their homes and sold his version of Murphy football to their families. The players returned and the Murphy football team became one of the best examples of racial teamwork in Mobile County. He would coach the Panthers for 13 seasons, and never have a losing campaign. He had an overall record of 111-34-2 and sent 48 players to some level of college football. His 1975 team went 10-0, the first Murphy team to be undefeated in 50 years. In 1970 the Panthers became Mobile’s first team to make the state playoffs. In fact 10 of his 13 teams made the playoffs. In 1976 Murphy went 7-2-1 in the regular season behind Mardye McDole and Ken Luke. They defeated Baldwin County, Enterprise and West End in the state playoffs. On December 4, 1976 Murphy and Mountain Brook played the 4A State Championship at Legion Field. The game was loaded with big offensive plays, highly unusual for the 1970’s. Murphy QB John Holman would throw 4 TD passes, three to McDole, and pass for 311 yards. But Mountain Brook countered with Major Ogilvies 4 TDs to win 52-26.
But Robert Shaw was years ahead of his times. In the late 1970’s he was throwing the ball and spreading the field with formations while many other schools were in the Wishbone. In 1979 he used a speedy receiver named Joey Jones to terrorize opponents secondaries. Jones, now the head coach at the University of South Alabama said that Shaw was “innovative….and one step ahead of his opponents. He had a great way of motivating players to play to their highest level.”
His last team at Murphy finished 9-2. He retired after the ’81 season and went into private business for 6 years. Coach Shaw then returned to education, first as football coach at Grand Bay for a year and then to administration in Mobile County, and later as the athletic director for the county. He has been honored with many awards, coaching in the North South All Star game in 1972 and was elected to the Alabama High School Hall of Fame in 1999. He has served as a member of the Ala-Miss All Star game committee. He is a member of Woodridge Baptist Church where he has served as a deacon and the Cricton Optimist Club.
Even today it is difficult not to think of Robert Shaw when the subject of Murphy High school is mentioned. His courage and innovation made the Murphy Panthers one of the great programs of the 1970’s. THE ALABAMA FOOTBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION IS PROUD TO BESTOW ITS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD UPON COACH ROBERT SHAW.