During Tennessee’s basketball game against Florida on Feb. 29, former Vols quarterback Heath Shuler was announced to be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame for his college and NFL career. The announcement was made during a first-half timeout and Shuler made an appearance on the floor as he received applause from the fans in attendance.
Shuler said that his former college head coach Phillip Fulmer was the one to break the news of his award.
“(Fulmer) actually asked me to come over, and we had a conversation when we got here,” Shuler said. “He let me know how much it meant to him for him to be able to tell me.”
Shuler played for Tennessee from 1991-1993 under head coaches Johnny Majors and Fulmer. In his first season he did not see the field very often, but he began to gain national attention in his sophomore season. He led the Vols to a 9-3 record that season and threw for 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
In his final year with Tennessee he played well enough to be considered one of the best players in the country. Shuler threw for 2,354 yards, 25 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on a 64.6% passing percentage. The team finished the 1993 season 9-2-1 in Fulmer’s first full season as head coach. The standout season led to him being named SEC player of the year, and Shuler was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy behind Charlie Ward.
“When the reality comes to it, your fondest memories are actually spending time with your teammates. It’s those hot summer workouts. It’s the time that you didn’t think you could make one more sprint or one more rep in the weight room, and you kind of look over at your teammates and they’re giving it all they have,” Shuler said on what his favorite memories at Tennessee were.
In the ensuing NFL draft, Shuler was picked with the third overall pick and was the first quarterback selected. He was chosen by the Washington Redskins, where he played from 1994-1996. After his third season he was traded to the New Orleans Saints, where he would play two seasons. In 1997 he endured a foot injury that eventually led to his retirement the next season when he reinjured it in training camp while with the Oakland Raiders.
After his playing days Shuler came back to the University of Tennessee to complete his degree. Shuler began a real estate agency in Knoxville before moving on to politics. The former Vol became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina’s 11th district from 2007-2013. He is married to Nikol Davis and he has two children, Island and Navy. Navy is an upcoming freshman quarterback at Appalachian State.
“(Navy) just has a knack for it, just an understanding of the game that makes me proud. Most importantly of all, he’s a great brother to his sister, and he’s made Nikol and I proud parents regardless if he ever plays a play on the field,” Shuler said.
Shuler joins Jeff Fisher, Tim Corbin, Tony Delk, Terry Crisp, Bettye Giles, Sonny Smith, Dick Horton, and Carl Torbush as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductee class of 2020. The Hall of Fame is located in Nashville, Tennessee and honors people who have impacted the history of Tennessee sports on and off the field. For more information visit their website.
Featured photo courtesy of Tennessee Football Twitter (@Vol_Football)
Edited by Christian Knox and Libby Dayhuff
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at email@example.com