Heath Shuler ... politician?

Foot problems may have doomed his pro football career but Heath Shuler is running again … this time for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Shuler, a native of Waynesville, N.C., who was Tennessee's starting quarterback in 1992 and '93, announced this week that he has filed papers to seek election next year in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District. Running as a Democrat, he will oppose Republican Charles Taylor, an eight-term incumbent.

Shuler was one of the Vols' most popular players ever. Clean-cut and good-looking, with a rifle arm and quick feet, he guided the Big Orange to a 9-3 record as a sophomore in 1992. Highlights included a 34-31 win at Georgia in his second career start and a 31-14 thrashing of fourth-ranked Florida.

As a junior Shuler spearheaded the most dynamic offense in Tennessee history. The '93 Vols set single-season school records for points (471 points in 11 regular-season games), points per game (42.8) and touchdowns (62) that still stand to this day. For his efforts Shuler finished runnerup to Florida State's Charlie Ward in the Heisman Trophy balloting that year.

Shuler broke thousands of Big Orange hearts by electing to turn pro following the '93 season. Drafted in the first round by the NFL's Washington Redskins, he endured a lengthy holdout and fell from favor. Thanks to the late start and nagging foot problems that eventually ended his career, he threw just 15 touchdown passes with 33 interceptions in 22 career starts at the pro level.

Following his retirement, he and his brother Benjie opened Heath Shuler Real Estate, which employs 250 workers.

Upon announcing his candidacy for political office, Heath Shuler noted in a press release: "Far too many families in western North Carolina are struggling to earn a decent living, educate their children, and pay for health care. Congress is spending too much time playing partisan politics, instead of working to find solutions to the real problems facing our families."

The former Vol already has one endorsement. That came from UT head football coach Phillip Fulmer, who told The Associated Press that Shuler "was a great ambassador for UT football and he would be a great ambassador for people from North Carolina."


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