University of Southern California football captain Josh Shaw says he made up an account of saving his nephew from a potential drowning -- a story that drew national attention and then an investigation by USC athletic department officials.
"On Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall," Shaw said this evening in a written statement released through his lawyer, Donald Etra. "I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong to not tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part."
Shaw, 22, a fifth-year senior and a cornerback on the Trojans football team, has been suspended indefinitely from team activities after his "complete fabrication," an athletic department statement said.
“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian said in the written statement. “He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.
“I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized. Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him.”
Shaw initially said he suffered a pair of ankle sprains Saturday night after jumping from the second story of an apartment complex to save his 7-year-old nephew, Carter, who was struggling in the pool. He said he landed on concrete before crawling into the pool and steering his nephew to dry land, then grabbing a ladder and lifting himself out of the water using just his arms.
As story of the rescue gained attention, other accounts emerged conflicting with Shaw’s story.
"We've gotten a few phone calls contradicting what Josh said occurred Saturday night, so we're going to continue to vet it," Sarkisian said before Shaw came clean.
It was not clear who made those calls or what part of the story is being challenged. Shaw did suffer sprains in both ankles, and he remained sidelined indefinitely even before his suspension.
"The x-rays and MRIs we have taken on him have come back negative," Sarkisian said. "So far, we don't see anything structurally wrong with him, but he is very sore."
Shaw was absent from practice Tuesday.
Over the weekend, he was voted a team captain. He was expected to be a major contributor for USC this season.
Shaw's sister Asia -– Carter’s mother –- said she didn't witness the incident, but was quick to defend her brother.
"My child is safe, and it's because of Josh," she told ABC News. "I really do praise God and I just hope that he has a speedy recovery."