Heath Shuler found a new game: raising and training Labrador
retrievers for hunt and field competitions. "I can't run at all
because of my football injuries," says Shuler, 32, the former
Tennessee quarterback who was supposed to return the Washington
Redskins to NFL supremacy in the mid-1990s, "so this gives me the
competitive edge I've missed since I stopped playing."
Coming off a 4-12 season in 1993, the Redskins drafted the
strong-armed passer with the No. 3 pick in what was seen as a big
step toward resurrecting the franchise. However, it wasn't long
before Washington fans were revising their expectations. After a
two-week holdout Shuler displayed an unmessianic tendency to
miss his receivers, then hurt his shoulder and lost his starting
job to a seventh-round draft choice, Gus Frerotte. In '97 Shuler
was traded to New Orleans, where he turned coach Mike Ditka's
mustache gray by throwing 14 interceptions and only two
touchdowns in nine starts before a foot injury ended his career.
Shuler returned to Knoxville and started a real estate company
that buys and develops commercial and residential properties.
Four years ago he added the Labrador business; one of his
partners is former Tennessee teammate Kevin Mays, an offensive
lineman whose NFL plans were derailed by a freak off-season knee
injury. The two friends make light of their infirmities.
"Sometimes we'll be out with the dogs," says Shuler, who is
married (to his college sweetheart, Nikol) with a three-year-old
son, Navy, "and the two of us will limp around the field deciding
who walks worse." --Bill Syken
B/W PHOTO: SUZY MAST/AP LAB PARTNER Canine competition has been far kinder to Shuler thanthe NFL.
COLOR PHOTO: TOM RAYMOND [See caption above]