2020 Rare Disease Champion Team: Learn more about Stanford head coach David Shaw and the rare bond with his younger brother


David Shaw

University: Stanford University

Vitals: Head Football Coach

Quick Hits: The 1995 Stanford graduate is the fifth alum to hold the position of head football coach. David is the 34th head coach in program history and just completed his 10th season at his alma mater. He is the winningest coach in program history with a 90-36 (.714) career record including 62-25 (.713) in Pac-12 play. David has guided Stanford to three Pac-12 titles since he took over in 2011 and a pair of Rose Bowl wins in three appearances. David, who oversaw the final nine years of the 2010s, was instrumental in Stanford’s most successful decade in school history. The Cardinal totaled 98 wins, 42 NFL Draft picks, 28 wins vs. AP Top 25 teams, 24 AP All-Americans, nine Academic All-Americans, five unanimous All-Americans and had a 93.5 average graduation success rate. Each of those categories either led the Pac-12 or was second, while also in the Top 10 nationally. He launched his coaching career at Western Washington, where he coached outside linebackers in 1995 and tight ends in 1996. David’s coaching resume also includes nine years of NFL experience and four years as Stanford’s offensive coordinator before taking over as the head coach. A four-year letterwinner at Stanford from 1991-94 as a receiver, Shaw was a member of Stanford’s 1991 Aloha Bowl team coached by Dennis Green that finished the season 8-4 and was also on the Cardinal team that went 10-3 and won the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl under Bill Walsh. Shaw finished his Stanford career with 57 catches for 664 yards and five touchdowns. Born in San Diego, David and his wife, Kori, are the parents of three children — Keegan, Carter and Gavin.

INSIDE THE RARE JOURNEY

Coach Shaw knew his younger brother Eric’s battle with an extremely rare and aggressive form of skin cancer was in the final stages. After nearly seven years of radiation, chemotherapy and two failed bone marrow transplants nothing helped. With each failed potential treatment protocol the cancer came back with even greater fury and ferocity.

Coach Shaw and Eric didn’t directly mention what was happening late in 2017 and early 2018 but deep down both knew. Eric was dying. And Coach Shaw, as the big brother, was desperate to find a solution that would give his brother a chance at life.

It took two years for doctors to properly diagnose Eric in 2013 with a rare form of skin cancer called mycosis fungoides, a type of T-cell lymphoma that affects one in 6 million people in the United States and Europe.

After two years of battling as the disease progressed, Eric still didn’t fully grasp the brevity of his situation until the doctors bluntly told him his rare disease was so aggressive he needed to start treatment immediately. Radiation first. If that didn’t work chemotherapy would be next. Eight months of treatments didn’t produce any results and so it was down to the last-resort: a bone marrow transplant.

However, two failed bone marrow transplants in a five-month span left Eric seven years into his fight and it appeared no more viable options remained. 

One final risky option was discussed by the doctors and it involved Coach Shaw. For more than a quarter century doctors had worked on a half-match transplant without much success. By 2018 a new option had become available to try this type of transplant called haploidentical transplants and typically you used the bone marrow of a family member.

Coach Shaw was only a five on the match scale out of 10 when he was originally tested. But this was desperation time and the doctors wanted Coach Shaw to be the donor.

Eric and Coach Shaw agreed it was worth the risk. If they did nothing the disease would come back stronger again and take Eric’s life. The odds, 30 to 40 percent, seemed pretty good compared to the alternative.

Quietly and without saying anything about what was going on, Coach Shaw prepared for the transplant while continuing to coach his team that year. It took an enormous physical toll on him, but it was nothing compared to what Eric had already faced. After 27 grueling days of recovery, Eric and Coach Shaw received a call they didn’t expect but quietly prayed and hoped they would receive. The transplant worked. All the blood in Eric’s body belonged to his brother, Coach Shaw.

In early 2019 Eric was declared cancer free and doctors say the chance of his rare condition returning are less than one percent. The Shaw brothers shared their rare disease journey publicly for the first time in 2020 to inspire others with hope.

WHAT THEY SAID

“I had a rare disease, battled it together with David and my family for a long time. Ultimately, David became my bone marrow transplant donor and he is the reason I am here today because he saved my life. Thank you, David.” – Eric Shaw

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