News & Politics

Former QB Wants to Throw Dems a Hail Mary

Heath Shuler Wants to Return to Washington—as a Congressman

When Heisman Trophy runner-up Heath Shuler arrived here in 1994 as the Redskins’ next great quarterback, word was that he might not be the smartest guy on coach Norv Turner’s team. The North Carolina native supposedly had one of the lowest scores ever recorded on the Wonderlic test, given by the NFL to test mental aptitude of its prospective draftees.

Sportswriters joked that Shuler often frustrated Turner by forgetting the plays between the sideline and the huddle.

Shuler’s career here began with a contract dispute that allowed competitor Gus Frerotte to steal both the starting job and the fans’ hearts. (Unfortunately, Frerotte later gave himself a concussion by banging his helmeted head into a concrete wall.)

Five years after leaving the University of Tennessee early to enter the NFL, Shuler’s pro-football career was over. He retreated to Knoxville, where he passed the real-estate exam and began selling property. Shuler then got a degree in psychology from Tennessee, graduating with a 3.11 GPA.

Washington never celebrated Shuler the quarterback, but congressional Democrats, anxious to regain power, may be tempted to give Shuler a ticker-tape parade if he defeats Republican congressman Charles Taylor in North Carolina’s 11th District. The district, the westernmost part of the state, is home to Brad Johnson, another former Redskins quarterback.

Shuler says he only learned of his dubious score on the Wonderlic test when Texas quarterback Vince Young made news; Young allegedly scored 6 out of 50, though officials now put it at 16.

“I guess I just signed my name to it and threw it back at them,” Shuler recalls. “If it had been an issue, I guess I would have heard something about it.”

Luckily for Shuler, voters don’t administer IQ tests to prospective congressmen, and Shuler can rest assured that at the Capitol he won’t have to worry about remembering the plays—only mastering the congressional subway system. He can hardly be blamed if he can’t figure that out.