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."