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OT: Where are they now? Heath Shuler


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http://miva.jacksonsun.com/miva/cgi-bin/miva?SPORTS/sports_story.mv+link=200307165184337

Shuler's Day Off

By JEREMY PEPPAS

jpeppas@jacksonsun.com

Jul 16 2003

Former UT quarterback works with campers at JCS

Photos by ERIKA ALEXANDER/The Jackson Sun - Ben Cooper, an eighth-grader at Jackson Christian School, prepares to hurl a pass downfield, while former Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler looks on. About 40 players attended a day-camp scrimmage at JCS on Tuesday.

Photos by ERIKA ALEXANDER/The Jackson Sun - Ben Cooper, an eighth-grader at Jackson Christian School, prepares to hurl a pass downfield, while former Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler looks on. About 40 players attended a day-camp scrimmage at JCS on Tuesday.

Heath Shuler can still throw bullets. Just ask Jackson Christian School receiver Chase Chandler.

"I couldn't catch the short routes," Chandler said. "He threw the ball too hard. So I was running the long routes. He was going half-speed and was throwing the ball 40 yards on the fly. We would all just run as hard as we could to catch it."

Shuler was in town on Tuesday for JCS' youth football camp, which attracted about 40 players.

"I just appreciate the fact that he was able to come out here and help out," said JCS head football coach Eric Cohu.

Shuler was brought to the camp by Jackson attorney Jason Rudd, a friend of Shuler and Cohu.

"I always do at least two camps a year, besides day camps like this - the Gus Purcell Quarterback School and a Cherokee Nation camp in North Carolina," Shuler said. "I wasn't able to go to Gus Purcell this year, though. It was the first time I missed that camp since seventh grade."

Shuler's football exploits approach legendary status among Tennessee fans.

After a record-setting high school career at Swain County in Bryson City, N.C., Shuler signed with Tennessee and was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1993 to Florida State's Charlie Ward.

Shuler was 28-8 with the Vols and passed for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns, ranking sixth on the Vols' career record list.

Shuler left college a year early and was picked third, the first quarterback overall, in the 1994 draft by the Washington Redskins. He signed an eight-year, $19.25 million deal after a brief holdout.

Shuler doesn't have any regrets about skipping his senior season, saying, "I couldn't have bettered myself. What could I have done? Every dream I ever had was fulfilled."

Shuler was hampered by injuries throughout his professional career with the Redskins and the New Orleans Saints. He retired from professional football in 1997. His his best year as a professional came his rookie season with Washington when he threw for 1,658 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Shuler has been busy outside of football, forming a real estate company in 1998 with his brother Benjie, who played wide receiver for the Vols.

"We have over 200 agents now," Shuler said, "and we are the largest independent real estate company in East Tennessee. I work on the developmental side, while my brother actually runs the operation."

Shuler also hosts a radio and television show in Knoxville on Tennessee football.

"I just help out," Shuler said. "It is just during the season, and it is something I do to keep involved. I provide some insight on pass coverages and offensive plays.

"I don't keep up with the recruiting, but I know Tennessee has an extremely tough schedule. They travel to Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Miami. If they can just go 2-2 from that, then they did all right."

One of those trips is to Florida, which Shuler said was "without any question," the toughest place he played. Beating Georgia "between the hedges," was his most memorable moment as a collegian.

Shuler left the JCS campers impressed.

Noah Chandler, a 5th grade wide receiver, said, "It was fun, and he was cool."

Drew Blackstock, a junior linebacker, said Shuler was "a good Christian and he has his priorities in order."

In between his football and business interests, Shuler was able to find the time to get married. He and his wife, Nikol, have a 2-year-old son named Navy. Political insiders have mentioned Shuler's name as a potential candidate for Congress. Which would mean Shuler could start his professional football and political careers in the same town - Washington.

- Jeremy Peppas, 425-9634

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Good Lord, goldenster - how did you light on The Jackson Sun? That my local rag. I noticed that Heath had been in town (and I've have gone over to that high school had I known he was going to be there).

I don't hate Heath at all. I was one of those who thought he was great in college and I was elated when we drafted him. The kid had an absolute rocket of an arm. Too bad he couldn't read defenses.

At least he was better than Akili Smith.

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My fondest Shuler memory:

I saw him participate in the "Bruce Smith Celeb Softball Game" at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Va. (Harbor Park is the home of the Tides, the AAA Affiliate of the Mets).

Shuler's first at bat was a bomb over the concession stand PAST the left field fence. I've never seen someone hit a softball that far. His second at bat was a shot to dead center field, 404 feet, and was caught on the warning track.

No one else came remotely close to hitting the ball that far and they had several professional softball players....

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