RALEIGH — As Shaw concluded one of its worst seasons in 2011, coach Darrell Asberry could only wonder, What if?
Patrolling the sideline with clipboard was a 6-foot-6, 210-pound quarterback with a strong arm and Big Ten background. James Stallons signed with Wisconsin in 2007 and was part of the program for two years before transferring to Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College. In 2010, he threw for 2,061 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions before transferring to Shaw. Stallons was supposed to be on the field for the Bears last season, but eligibility issues kept him sidelined.
Asberry never got the chance to see his recruit after leaving for Texas Southern.
Stallons beat out last seasons starting quarterback Quinshon Odom to lead a Bears team intent on returning to its championship ways. Shaw has won four CIAA championships since reinstating football in 2003. Its those titles that caught Stallons attention.
I had a couple of Division I schools interested in me, but the coaches showed me the rings and the trophies. I won a state high school championship in Michigan, so Ive always been on winning teams, Stallons said. I want to be a part of a winning team, win a conference championship and be part of something special; thats why I came to Shaw.
The senior from Macomb, Mich., already has made school history as Shaws first white starting quarterback. Not even new coach Robert Massey was aware of the significance.
The best dog is going to hunt. I dont care if hes green or yellow, said Massey, who was the defensive coordinator under Asberry. Times are changing. Good players want to play for good programs no matter what division they are in. Its our job to find and recruit the best players for the team.
After starting 1-3, the Bears won three consecutive games before falling to J.C. Smith last weekend. They face defending CIAA champion Winston-Salem State on Saturday.
Stallons is a major reason for the Bears resurgence. Struggling to learn the scheme of new offensive coordinator Maurice Flowers, he threw seven interceptions in the first four games.
During the Bears winning streak, he threw seven touchdowns and one interception. He is now second in the conference in passing with 284.6 yards per game.
The first time I met coach Flowers, I knew he was the one I wanted to be coached by, Stallons said.
Massey recruited Flowers from J. C. Smith. In his two years at J.C. Smith, his offense was one of the top-scoring units in the league. Last season he helped guide the CIAA rookie of the year, quarterback Keahn Wallace. Now he is making magic with Stallons.
Sometimes certain players that come from Division I level dont want to listen or take coaching, but James is just the opposite, Flowers said. He is a student of the game. He studies the game very well, he studies his mistakes and he learns from them. He is really hitting his stride now.
And catching the attention of pro scouts. Stallons participated in a pro workout last spring at St. Augustines. Flowers said its not unusual to see four or five NFL scouts at practice.
But for Stallons, its all about starting a new winning streak.
Were in the playoffs right now because we cant afford to lose one more game in the CIAA, he said.