LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - University of Southern California football player Josh Shaw admitted on Wednesday that he fabricated a widely publicized story that he hurt himself while rescuing his young nephew from a swimming pool.
“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 said in a statement issued by his attorney, Donald Etra.
Etra said the 22-year-old senior defensive back and captain of the Trojan football team did fall off of a balcony but declined to say under what circumstances.
Shaw has been suspended indefinitely, USC said. The university had publicized his story on Monday, with head football coach Steve Sarkisian calling it a “heroic act.”
The following day, Sarkisian told reporters the university was vetting Shaw’s story after it received calls questioning its veracity.
The player had told USC he suffered two high ankle sprains on Saturday after leaping from a second-floor balcony at an apartment complex in Palmdale, California, to help his 7-year-old nephew who was distressed in a swimming pool.
Los Angeles police said Shaw’s name appeared in an incident report from his girlfriend’s downtown Los Angeles apartment on Saturday, but that he was not a suspect in the matter, which was described as a possible burglary case.
Police said someone matching Shaw’s description was seen leaving the apartment from a balcony.
Shaw’s admission is an embarrassment for the popular college football program days ahead from its opening game on Saturday.
“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” Sarkisian said in a 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.”
Shaw, who was to be sidelined indefinitely with the injuries, told USC he crawled to the pool in order to help his nephew and later went to a hospital where he was diagnosed with the high ankle sprains.
Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and David Gregorio