Heath Shuler, former Swain County High School, University of Tennessee, and NFL quarterback, is a successful businessman in real estate and land development. A proven leader both on and off the field and not a career politician, Heath is now running for Congress in the Western North Carolina district where he grew up and is raising his family.
Rural Western North Carolina Roots
Heath Shuler was born on December 31, 1971 in Swain County, North Carolina. He and his younger brother Benjie grew up on Toot Hollow Road in Bryson City, N.C., the sons of a mail carrier father and a mom who raised her children while volunteering her time with the Swain County Youth Association.
Leadership on the Field and in the Classroom
As a student-athlete at Swain County High School, Heath set every passing record in school history, including accounting for 106 total touchdowns. He led the Maroon Devils to three North Carolina state championships and was the Most Valuable Player in the 1990 state championship game. Heath was named North Carolina High School Player of the year and was a Parade All-American. The following spring, he graduated from Swain County High School with honors. After being the most heavily recruited high school quarterback in America, Heath made the decision to attend and play for the University of Tennessee. In his three-year career at UT, Heath set numerous passing records, was selected to multiple All-America teams, and was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He made the All-SEC Academic Team, was named NCAA Male Athlete of the Year, and in 1993, was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. After retiring from the NFL, Heath returned to the University of Tennessee and completed his education, graduating with a degree in Psychology.
The Washington Redskins made Heath the first quarterback selected and the third pick overall. Heath played three years with the Redskins, followed by two seasons with the New Orleans Saints, where his teammates elected him Team Captain. In 1997, Heath sustained a career-ending injury. But he never gave up – through two surgeries, Heath continued to work hard to get back on the field. After his final surgery, Heath signed with the Oakland Raiders, where he re-injured his foot and retired from professional football.
Success in the Business Community
After his NFL career came to a close, Heath set his sights on another professional goal – building a successful business. Heath and his brother Benjie started Heath Shuler Real Estate in Knoxville, TN. The company that began with the two Shuler brothers and one agent is now one of the largest independent real estate firms in east Tennessee, with more than 200 employees. With an excellent leadership team now in place at Heath Shuler Real Estate, Heath has become more involved in real estate development.
A Record of Community Involvement
Throughout Heath’s college, professional and post-NFL career, he has been very involved in helping others and working with community service organizations. In college, he made regular visits to the Children’s Hospital. While in the NFL, Heath founded the Heath Shuler Foundation, a leadership program for middle and high school students. The Foundation partnered with New Century Scholars to offer Swain County High School graduates the opportunity to further their education, regardless of their financial situation. As a charter member and spokesperson for the Friends of the Smokies, Heath is actively involved in protecting the natural beauty of our environment. Heath has served as a Board Member of the Knoxville Boys and Girls Club and as National Spokesperson for Character Counts. He also serves on the Scholarship Committee for the North Carolina Association for the Advancement of Teaching, the Board of Junior Achievement, and Fresh Start. Heath remains active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and currently serves on the Board of Directors of United Community Bank.
Commitment to Family, Faith, and WNC Values
In 2003, Heath and his wife, Nikol, moved back home to the mountains of Western North Carolina to raise their two children – Navy, 4 and Island, 1 – in the same environment in which they were brought up.