Shay Brothers Create Their Own Success

By Jeff Holt

Published June 17, 2021 in The Burg


None of the Shay brothers (Beau, Zach or Jason) are 6-foot-6 or considered to be off-the-charts with athleticism.

But the last several years, they had a certain mindset that started out in Silver Streaks country and evolved into some highly successful lives.

"I'm no better than any of these high school kids who want to play Division I sports," said Beau, a 2000 graduate of Galesburg High School and a 2004 grad of Clemson University.

Continued Beau, about his (left)older brothers, "Their overall thought process in sports and life in general is an attack mentality. That's what they taught me. They attack problems and they attacked sports situations, which has made them both successful. All I did was follow in their footsteps. Just attack the problem and be passionate about what you are going to do. It doesn't matter if it is in sports or music or whatever. Attack it."

Beau, now known as Dr. Beau Shay, had close to a 3.7 overall grade point average at Clemson and is now a foot doctor in the Quad Cities.

What's really impressive about Beau is that he went outside-the-box to make his own path in life. He joked that he pretty much grew up in Iowa City, watching his older brothers play at the University of Iowa.

So, he traveled 13 1/2 hours away to Clemson University and made the basketball team at just 5-10 and "maybe" 170 pounds.

"I was pretty stubborn being the younger brother and both of my brothers went to the University of Iowa," said Beau. "My freshman year my roommate tried out as well - softly recruited," said Beau. "Probably 40 guys that were recruited and only two made it. We left the gym and I thought I had played well. I had some good film that they had seen on me. I just tried to go out there and stick to what I do, and attack the situation. I got a call that night and they never made me try out for the team again. I'd say being a good student also helped me because they wanted me on the team for that. It's no bigger accomplishment than what these kids in Galesburg can do. You just have to grind it."

Beau said the biggest games they played at Clemson were against Duke and North Carolina, when his fellow students would be camping out the night before the game and cheering them on through their private tunnel. "You can't beat that atmosphere," he said.

Beau played on Clemson Tiger basketball teams that beat: No. 1 North Carolina (2001), No. 7 Virginia (2002), No. 19 Wake Forest (2002), No. 12 North Carolina (2004), and No. 13 North Carolina State (2004).

Former Duke star Jason Williams is one player that Beau will never forget competing against. Williams was later drafted second overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 NBA Draft and then later (in 2003) Williams suffered a career-ending motorcycle accident. Williams is currently a TV analyst for ESPN. "I tell people all the time - outside of Joey Range - he (Williams) is one of the best players I ever played against," said Beau. "He (Williams) could do anything on the basketball court. Nothing ever phased him. We tried trapping him at halfcourt, but he always made the right decision. Just amazing."

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The impact that Zach Shay has had on the Galesburg High School football program is phenomenal.

He's already a member of the GHS 1991 Hall of Fame Football Playoff team. He closed out his Streaks football career as a two-time MVP and a two-time Western Big 6 All-Conference selection. Plus, he turned in a school-record 8 interceptions in one season and was an Honorable Mention All Stater.

But uniquely, Shay returned to GHS in 2002 to lead the Streaks football team as a coach and he led that team to the playoffs. It marked the first time in 11 years that the Streaks had been to the playoffs and only the fourth time in school history. "That was pretty dynamic, a fun time," said Zach.

The effort of Zach as a Streaks football player and a coach puts him in an elite category.

Zach has coached football a total of 22 years, with 15 of those years on the college level. He's currently the Activities Director and Associate Principal at Bettendorf High School.

"We play 22 sports up there," said Zach. "When I took the job, we had 77 state championships and we won six more this year. We love it up there. Beau and his family live there and our kids go to the same school. It's a great situation for us."

But Zach's "life-changing moment" came when he played five years (one year as a redshirt) for the Hayden Fry-led Iowa Hawkeyes football team. He started two seasons on special teams for the Hawkeyes, along with being a key backup on defense and a 3-time Scout Team Player of the Week.

"I'm still tied in really tight with Iowa," said Zach. "It changed my life, playing for Coach Fry and playing at the University of Iowa. It was a great experience."

Zach's winning attitude hit a new level at Iowa with 15-straight wins over Iowa State, 18-straight wins over Wisconsin and 21-straight wins over Northwestern.

"The thing about Coach Fry is that he beat the teams that he should beat," he said. "Then once in awhile, we'd Knock off a Michigan or an Ohio State." he said.

Zach also played in 3 FBS Bowl Games (1995 Sun Bowl Champions, 1996 Alamo Bowl Champions, 1997 Sun Bowl)

"Those games I'll never forget," said Zach.

Especially the Alamo Bowl when the Hawkeyes shutout Texas Tech 27-0. It was the first time the Red Raiders were held scoreless since 1987.

Above all, Zach still cherishes the time he got to play for the legendary Hayden Fry who passed away at age 90 around 18 months ago. Fry compiled an overall record of 232-178-10 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2003.

"He (Fry) was the type of guy that he'd meet you one time and remember your parents names and your brothers names, and he was so genuine. He was all about relationship-building."

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Jason Shay is quietly in his 23rd year of coaching college basketball. In fact, he's currently on the recruiting trail as an assistant coach at Wichita State University and evaluating talent.

He was one point away from going to the Final 4, he's been to the Elite 8 and he's had four Sweet 16 appearances.

"Getting to that Final 4 would be special," he said.

His advice to anyone wanting to try and play Division I hoops is: "I think you gotta love the game first and have a passion for it. Then, I think you have to have a work ethic. You have to put in the effort."

Jason grew up in Galesburg looking up to basketball standouts like Mark Makeever, Eric Johnson, Byron Thierry and Mark Junk. He'll always remember his junior year at GHS when they knocked off No. 1 ranked Rock Island in a sectional game.

His playing days at Churchill, too, were a big part of his development with the Morgan brothers. "That's where I learned discipline and basketball IQ. They really taught the game and they were also disciplinarians. We have a saying ... do what you are supposed to do, do it on time and to the best of your abilities."

Added Jason, "We tell our players - if winning was easy - everyone would do it."

Not to be overlooked was when Jason played basketball for the University of Iowa from 1991-95, which was highlighted by two NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT appearance as a player for the Hawkeyes.

And he's still humble and appreciative.

Especially, when he talks about his two brothers (Beau and Zach).

"They've been there for me every step of the way - encouraged me, believed in me and just the pride from talking to them," he said. "Listening to them talk about me to other people is also a driving force. I'm more proud of all our accomplishments."

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