Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

Heath Shuler

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Former NFL Quarterback and Congressman, Heath Shuler joins the huddle. In this exclusive interview, Gus and Heath talk for the first time after competing for the starting QB role at the Washington Redskins. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

I am former NFL quarterback gusts for as. I played quarterback fifteen years in the NFL. This is my show called huddle up with gusts. Each week I team up with my longtime friend Dave Hagar and we talked with guests about how sports shape their lives. Pro Athletes, business executives, community leaders, everyone has a story to tell about sports. We invite you to huddle up with guss this week in the huddle. Coming from a small town in rural North Carolina, he went on to start at the University of Tennessee. Drafted in the first round by the Washington redskins. He was involved with Gus in a classic training camp quarterback battle. After five years in the NFL, he went on to serve three terms as a highly popular member of Congress. Please welcome into the Huddle Heath Shuler. All right, so, heath, it's called huddle up with gusts and we appreciate you getting in the huddle with us today. Well, gut is always great to be in your nuddle. Yeah, unfortunately, heath and I never got to be in the huddle at the same never not the same time. The only position that doesn't get to do that. It's one at a time for you can one at the day for us. So Heath, where we always start. Is that moment in your life that you can remember as far back as possible that was influential for you? was in a parent? Was it a brother? was in an uncle, somebody that really put that bug of the love of sports into your life? But definitely have to be both my parents. They actually volunteered all of their free time for the Swain County Youth Athletic associal creation and so they were in charge of raising money, helping out with concession stand getting referees and Umpires, and so they handled both baseball and football. So it was kind of boring into me that we showed up and every weekend we were we spent my brother and I, we spent on the baseball fields and and and then, as older we got, had a chance to play football. And so it ended up being we didn't know any better. We thought that's what every kid was supposed to do. But there was always that one coach, as you're saying, and it was my high school coach that really kind of showed me the love of the game. And it started out when I was in the seventh grade, he was one of these coaches went back to the elementary schools and middle schools and said, okay, you know, they're going to identify. I got they can play quarterback, I need a quarterback, I need to run it back and identify those positions. And so I'll never forget he came to pe class and watch just, you know, kind of participate in the class and he come up to me said I really want you to start focusing on, you know, football, and I know you'd play all the sports and I want you to play all the sports and I really want you to start spending some time with us. So as a seventh grader, I got six and seventh grade I got a chance to really get to know our high school football coach and coach boysteats and and from that point on he not only did he I coach, but once I got into Congress, he actually work for my team on the congressional staff. You know what, that's awesome. And one of the things is that, and I think people don't understand it today, is that you probably didn't come from a very big city. No, six hundred people in the city of Bryson city, right, and one of the things that day. I always try to tell people it doesn't you don't have to go to the biggest high school and go get recruited by you if you play and you love the game, they will find you if you're good. And you know, I'm sure Bryson city was smaller than Fort City where I came from. But Heath. What was that like grown up in that small town? Well, it was eight eight that graduated in my senior class and it was always high expectations and sports football being at the top of that list. My Sophomore, junior senior year we won the state championship all three years and and so expectations are always high and, as they always say on Friday night, the the city kind of the whole county. We were the county school swing county at that time. Around tenzero people in the whole entire county where the North Carolina side the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We only have the whole county. Eighty six percent of it's the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. So we only have a very small community, that kind of task base, if you will, to in a very small all population. So there wasn't a lot to do on Friday nights, and there really is not a lot to do at any point in time. So athletics played a very important role and so the entire community would come out to watch the Games. And so even a county of eight thousand, eight tenzero people, I mean we would still have three or four or Fivezero people at a game. Wow. So you mentioned your brother and your brother Benjie. Is he younger or older than you? He's a younger brother. So He's a couple of years behind me in school and he and I ultimately went on and played at Tennessee together, while that would be interest. So you...

...played a lot of most of your sports. He was a little younger, but you played a lot of sports together when you were we did. My Dad was always a proponent of both of us moving up in age, and so he would move up in age and I would move up in age, and so we didn't play as much baseball together a football until actually we got into High School, because my dad always made us play with older kids to make us better. So was your dad. You know, you mentioned your parents giving you a love of sports, where they athletes. Yes, my mom's family is very athletic and she always tries to take credit for the ATHLETICISM and a family. My Dad, he was he played softball, played college. He did have enough money to even make it to college on a college scholarship and so actually went to work as a postman early on in life, and so he was a basketball player. My Mom's family very athletic family as well. We always just participated in athletics and very competitive family, as you could guess. So when you guys would play sports, did your parents? When, when you were younger, did they like you know, I left football and I would still go to play some softball and do other things. Did you use to go watch your parents play different sports? Yeah, my so my mom plays softball and my father play softball. So when we were young we would actually go with them and we spend a lot of times. My Dad would travel around the southeast and played on at a very high level of softball. So we would travel around the southeast and watch him on weekends when we were not participating in our own sporting activities, he would actually participate. So we're really young, before we started playing t ball and little league, we would actually follow my father around and Washington lay. That's basketball country down there too. Are you? Did you play basketball in high school? I play, but I was probably the worst basketball player you could ever imagine. You know, Guss, you how you throw a football? You kind of flip your wrists out. Well, I would you the basketball and it always went to the ride every single time. So I've never got I wasn't a great basketball player, but I could rebound and I could jump, and so they played me at center, even though I was only sixty three at the time. But you know, I played center even even though the other guys are there, because I could jump. I was the same way. I wasn't a very good basketball player, but I could get in there and bang it around for a little bit. So about positioning and was all all about. And I had bony elbows. So, like guys, never wanted to go. So you know he's the other thing is is I remember from you another part of sporting for you was was hunting, and you know we talked a little bit about that. We're going to get that in the future shows. But for me outdoor life is sporting as well. People think that just being an athlete on a field is sporting, but there's other sporting that you can do that. I have many friends that fish, hunt just do other things outside. They are just incredible and I know that was a big part of your upbringing as well. Yeah, it was, and growing up in an area like we did, I mean that was a part of your tradition. Your heritage is actually learning how to hunt and you know it is passed down from generation and generations of my father would take me and we would he would teach us how to hunt, read, how to you know, to navigate through the woods and listen, watch sign and so as that grow and we kind of got into big game hunting but ultimately kind of got into more of a gentleman's honey, if you will, the up land, so quil hunting, grass hunting, especially in the mountains of North Carolina, there's a lot. You had to put a lot of time in and walk a lot of miles before you see a grouse and it's it was never about the Keel. It was always about the the sportsmanship and the time together and Camaraderie together with the people you were hunting with, and so I enjoyed that more than you know. I still enjoy a good vinizin or a good quail. That spending time with his family and friends is it was more work. Now, what kind of big game hunting? So deer hunting typically. You know, I liked it. I like the deer hunt, not as much as I used to, but when I was we were the redskins. I know Jamie Asher and I. We used to. We spent a lot of time hunting and a couple times I think we even went before works. So there was a couple tree stands there at Redskins Park that we actually the guys, the maintenance guys, let us in on. So we actually would go out and for before our meetings. But that's what's crazy, right, is redskin park. You could go hunt right beside the park. Oh yeah, we did all the time. Yes, and now you can't even get I mean it's just completely overrun with like businesses and roads and stuff. It's one of the business busiest counties in the country. And live in Ashton, Ashton village. I would actually take the backway and I'm never would get on a paved...

...road until I pulled into the parking lots. So I can actually take all the back roads. Do all SOB fields and come right the redskin park right now. And you know, and he should have grewn up hunting. I mean eighty six percent of the county was in was national forest. It's right. Yeah, so he's the other part. One of place that I've vision visited in your county, I think it's in your county, is Dollywood. Oh, yeah, just that's on the other side of Ou. So that's in that's in Tennessee, just across the state line. It is. Yes, okay, yeah, that's Annie and I, my wife and I am we are coming back from college one time when we stopped. Therefore, I don't know a lot. We that was like our spot. We drove all day and we sought the Dollywood and and we actually got lost on a hike in Dollywood. Well, you alls pretty easily in the park. Yeah, we you know, we weren't smart. We were young. We went out, it was right before dark. We're in the mountains and it's the dark and we're like, ohh and you when you have to sign your name and when you start a hike, and they came and found us. Was Crazy. Well, that's just shows you it's a little nuts. where he grew up. DOLLYWOOD stole my list. I have to haven't checked that one off yet. But to meet Dolly partner, just go to Dollywood, but actually both. Okay, okay, yes, she's talked about for a lot of things, but she only has a seventeen inch waste. I didn't know that right. That's a fact. That's a fact. Yeah, so he so you go through your youth experience. You probably knew where you were going to go to high school and so you get to high school, you play two sports. What was your high school experience like? I know from ninth grade on and had to be crazy for you. Yeah, I mean we I think so much of it talked about leadership. We had a great coaching staff. So the coaching staff had been in tact for a very long time and a great tradition. So prior to they had one and seventy nine and eighty five was the to state championships prior to to our eight, eight hundred, eighty nine and ninety year. So it was a rich tradition of and always participated at a very high level. Well, obviously grow up in a real small school. Eighty eight graduated my senior class. We had to play all sports. So in the in the fall was only football, but the winner sport with basketball. I would play basketball through the week and then on weekends I would go to wrestling tournaments, and then in the spring we played both baseball and Ram track, which track ultimate as truely my favorite sport. I track was my all time favorite. I enjoyed that probably as much, as you know, as anything I had ever done. But football was kind of that avenue. What were your events? So I was a high jump and hurdler. Wow, wow, that was a six hundred and ten high jumper. Wow, he could jump two hundred and twenty pounds. He's may have had the biggest cavs I've ever seen. Wow, he could do that's impressive. Definitely could jump. So he you want to State Championships in football. Did youry? Three? Three, three, three. That's wrong when he said three earlier. Okay, I was reading your notes and two and track in a high June. That's why I was going to ask you. So how many other state can fits it? We're in baseball, just in track. My senior year we went in football. We were runner ups in baseball and I got my pitching debut the State Championship game. My cousin was the picture hurty side and ended up pulling in and I went in and Guss the bases was loaded and had a guy that ultimately end up playing in the majors and I got up and I said I'm just going to throw it as hard as I can. Can Buy this guy it. The ball still is rising as it went over the fence. I've never even turned around to look at it. It was a grand slam and we got beat. That was my pitching debut in baseball to the good. When my dad used to tell me, my dad used to tell me to throw the first one at their head and then throw the next one over and play that. I should have listened to that. That would have been good advice. Yeah, so he hit that. What point did you start to get feeling that you could probably played the next level college football? When did you start getting recruited? So we took up to our high school, took a team camp to NC state, and so I was going into my sophomore year and at that point in time they couldn't offer under classmen and so I went to the camp. They fought I was going to be a senior and so NC state offered me and then quickly had the Clott you know, like we really didn't offer you. So at that point in time I knew it was things were going well and I was I was able to throw with all the seniors that were at the camp and at that point they started coming to games, when when the season open...

...up for them to come to and I went to the gust per sale quarterback school, which was a school that was only high school quarterbacks and it was coached by a lot of college coaches and until the NCAA rules changed. So at that point in time I was going into my sophomore year as well, and so a lot of these college coaches that were coaching there were, you know, you could tell they there were be an extra nice and extra friendly and, you know, Kate Way to come what you play and that kind of stuff. So it kind of started a sophomore year. Well, that's great. So who was your first big letter like hey, we really want you to come to our school. So I guess I guess the biggest one that kind of come around early was bactually Florida and Chapel Hill in South Carolina was kind of the first three that came, and obviously NC state and it really wasn't Ntil my start of my senior year, because things have certainly changed now and recruiting. It wasn't till my senior year that Tennessee kind of come into the play and Miami came into play and and Notre Day. So I went. I went to Notre Dame in Miami and Florida and Alabama and Tennessee was my official visits. Well, my dad being a Midlman, and my mom volunteer in her time for the youth program. We don't have a lot of money growing up as a kid, so for my parents to go to Notre Dame or to go to Florida or even go to Alabama was going to be a very difficult both financially and time lise. So a twohour drive to Knoxhall and the fan base that was there. They threw the ball a lot. I'm like Alabama at the time didn't throw the ball as much and staying close to home and growing up in the western part of North Carolina, you kind of you got a really close attachment to the state of Tennessee just cause of I was closer there than I was Chapel Hill or NC state. A twohour drivers five and a half hour drive. Yeah, I'm sure if you would have mentioned to Florida that Hey, look, my I would love to come here but my parents can't afford it, I'm sure there would have been a booster or somebody that could help. Ye, Nice Florida go to day. Maybe nice for them. Maybe I was just too naive to work that process at the time. I guess. Who would have known? If you would have went back, like everything you learned in politics, I'm sure you could have went back and struck a nice deal. Oh yeah, it would have been a different story. Guys, all of that. Yeah, day like in Knoxville. It I've never been there for a game. It looks amazing. Well's pretty exciting. They had the ball navy. So that stadium is right next to the river and so a lot of people come to the Games by the a vote and so they stopped and they get out. They got a big dock there and they go up to walk up to the stadium, which is, you know, the very short distance away. And I guess really the VIBE. I mean hundred and seven thousand people in the stands out there was ninety seven thousand when I played there and then you know it's the it's an entire state. I mean you do have bandy and you do have Memphis and you have some of the smaller schools, but you know in theory, I mean everyone's focused and that whole state's the University of Tennessee. So you have such a mouth support from not only in the East Tennessee but throughout the entire state. So people would come in and the craziest part they would start coming in for a Saturday game on Thursday. So you would start seeing people on Thursday and certainly Friday. It was almost like a game day on campus. What was here? What was the first game you played? Inn where you started a game in college? So my first start would have been, I guess I been southwest Louisiana was, I think our first opener. That was the first game that I actually started and played, and then the next week we went to Georgia and played Georgia between the hedges and they were a top five ranked team and we come from behind in the fourth quarter in one. So that was kind of the most memorable game my sophomore year. So that that that first start you got where you pretty nerve earth. Yeah, I mean it was. It was kind of I don't know if as much as nervous as I was. There was just so much to think about that I didn't pay any attention to the crowd and the crowd noise or the excitement because, as you well know, if Gus, I mean folks in them, what your task at hand and your responsibilities sometimes just overshadows everything else going around you. Yeah, I my first start was at Arkansas and I can remember I was deer in the headlights and they blitzed. They were literally bringing every linebacker and I got took like three shots in a row and it took those three shots to like clear all the cobblebs and then just it...

...just remind you to get back into game and start playing, because my line at Tulsa wasn't the same line that heath had attended. I was sports. I had a great line at Tennessee, a really great line, I think. I all I got sacked more my first start in the NFL then I did my last entire season at Tennessee. Wow, you're probably wondering what the Hell is going on? I thought the NFL people did that. I mean I always had the luxury of just kind of doing what I wanted to because we really had a great, very talented offensive line. Yeah, so you set several records at Tennessee. You had an amazing career in Tennessee. What was one of your most memorable moments that you had it playing in Tennessee? Well, there was some a lot of fun games. That, you know, always brings back great memories. Going to Georgia, we had a my sophomore year, you know, having a top five team rank on the ropes late in the game plan in a very tough environment. It was fourth and sixteen and, you know, an incomplete pass, they get the ball back, they can kneel it and they walk away with a victory, minute and a half left in the game and I'll never forget go onto the sidelines and it was you know, there's always that play and practice that you just never can complete and you just don't feel a hundred percent confident about, not only as a quarterback, you don't get the team doesn't feel well, ironically enough, it was. It was truly the right call because it ultimately became successful. But David couple I, who was the offensive coordinator at the time, called it was I'll never forget this call. Sixty two mier and it was a deep it was a clearer out by the inside slot and a deep dig route by the outside receiver and they were in the right protection. They dropped and they only rush three. Dropped everybody and we kind of call it in that that deep dig angle for a touch for an eighteen yard pick up, and then, I'll Ol to me end up running the option in for the touchdown a few plays later. So it was a big play, big time for us and it kind of put our our team, you know, in a situation more then we became a top ten team. But what's the hardest SEC road game in your opinion? Far without a doubt, it's very difficult to play in the swamp. LSU is another one. If you play a night game and Lsu, that's another really tough place to play. But I would definitely have to say Florida would be the most challenging to play, both going there and sometimes the heat, the humidity was tough to overcome. But you know, the crowd just right there on top every they're they're really energized and they were very they were playing very well at the time. So that that was a very tough place to play. I've been to Lsu at night for a game that it's insane it's allowed at stadium. I've ever alway it is. I mean that's a as a crazy place. You know, school you can quiet them down early, but if you get you get the chance to get the crowd in the game your it's an uphill battle. I don't drink there now. We got there in a Thursday. You can imagine our condition on Saturday night. So yeah, so he you had. You had an incredible career. You go to New York for the HEISMAN. What was that experience like for you to sit in there? I know you didn't win it and you were very deserving of it. What was that at whole experience? Like you going through that? You're senior after your senior year? Well, first of all going, you know, go. I got to meet one of my childhood hero I got the you know, Earl Campbell was the guy that I actually admire wearing number thirty four for the Houston holders. I mean I'm never one of the play quarterback. I was always want to be the tailback and just so happened that I end up getting stuck at the position of that, as I say, but I'm really always wanted to run with the football, and so meeting Earl Campbell was truly I mean I just couldn't believe it when I got a chance to spend some time with him. Was Unbelievable. That was I will were thirty four up until I got into high school and that's why I worked twenty one too, because it would be what a quarterback number. It was more of a tailback number and I thought it maybe some point that put me back at tell that, but I plus started playing quarterback and never change. But that was a great experience. Going to New York for the very first time, you know, kind of seeing it was a very odd though, because at that time it was at the New York, it was downtown Athletic Club, and I'll never forget the night. I mean it was so it's a part of a hotel and we stayed there and my brother and I froze absolutely to death. It was snowing outside and it was so cold that we had no heat in our room and it was a literally a big hole in the window and we took the drapes off the window. Honestly, we took the draps down and we covered up with them. It was he and I were in the same room together and absolutely froze...

...to death. So the seats that I said and had like they were put together with duct tape, and so until, I guess Disney and all that at all change. I was really surprised that they was not the lights that made it look a lot better and you could walk into the hall thing there with all the heisman all the portraits on the wall and the heisman trophy winners, and it was like it had not been opened up for an entire year. That musty old smell, and so that part of it. I was totally blown away that this is not what I thought it would be. The people, though, were incredibly nice and did everything a man make you feel comfortable, but it was a very, very old place. Who are some of the other candidates? And the Charlie Ward won it, but who would like yet charlie were so David Parmer from Alabama was there. Charlieoo, there's three of us there that night. Okay, well, what an experience. You think like you know you're going to go win the highest award in College football and Your Hotel Room is freezing and you've been from the south, you probably like what in the way? Froze to death, entered chairs held together by duck tea. Yeah, like, where are we? In the right place. So the next night, Actual University, Tennessee, I guess, picked up the TAB and we moved to another hotel. There you go, there you go, you finally start using some of that politics. Yeah, exactly, but I think the coach former himself, I think, experience the same thing in the same hotel room. So I think he was ready to move out to Oh yeah, I bet your parents couldn't have been prouder when you were up there. They were. It was a great experience because they got to go and participate and be involved in it and it was to kind of watch your son and now have a son that plays and and you're like wow, I mean, I'm you have to be very proud of, you know, the accomplishments, and that was it was. It was awesome and it represent your you know, your university, and it only been the second time that someone at Tennessee had had been invited to the Haisman, I guess. Show a long way from Bryson city, long way. Yeah, so you know, so then you have this amazing college career. You go through all these things. I think there was one party of your college career that we left out right and you and your wife. Didn't she go to Tennessee as well, she did. Actually we were set up on a blind date when we were in high school. I was a senior in high school and a teacher actually came up to me scalls I know you're going to find this very strange. She goes, but I think I just met your future wife and I must seen your high school and I'm there's no way you've met my future wife. I mean that would be the last thing that I had thought about. So we dated a couple times where we're in high school. Went out several times. She went to another high school. We went out on a blind date and obviously very attractive and you know, I was like I'm all in and and I went off to college and then my freshman year I called her on my way back home and we met up and went on a date and kind of the rest of history. Wow, it's pretty good story. It's kind of like Annie and I. You know, we've been dating. We've been married twenty five years now, going and going right from our third year in college on. And sometimes when you know you know right, you do absolutely. So you go through this amazing college of career. When did you realize? I I kind of understand the whole thing about the NFL. When they're starting to come look at you, you're going through your pro day. What was that experience like for you? Well, that was fun, I mean it was kind of I didn't. I think the best decision that I made was actually getting a Tom Condon, who was my agent, and Tom kind of helped preface me both through the workouts and a true understanding and a guy that in some people would think, and a very difficult industry, if you will, Tom's territy and character, I mean, you know, still proves true today with with the conversations that I still have and you know, just love the guy. Mean I owe so much to him and what he was able to help provide for me in the knowledge and understanding the game, because I was trying to stay focus on where I was at the moment and that was, you know, college and then having that opportunity to go play fill the childhood dream. It was tough even Tennessee, my brother would had spent his freshman year there. He got to start the Florida game and so, you know, knowing that I was probably going to get to throw more to my brother, I did complete my last completion to him in college. Didn't realize it at the time, but you know, having him there in obviously, you know my future wife was there. We were dating, and so I was leaving a lot but kind of fulfill that childhood dream. And you know then my back up quarterback at Jerry cooples, was the star of the next year and first game, second series, he blows his...

...knee out, and so I think it you know a lot of people were disappointed at Tennessee that I left early, but I think it was like a reminder that that could have very easily have been me and not fulfill those dreams and opportunities to play in the league. And you know, growing up, like I said, it didn't we don't have a lot growing up, so being able to provide for my family long terms important to me. Who did did you know? Look, at what point did you know you're going to get selected? Third? The or the redskins pretty clear about who they were going to take, or was it what I draft that I know exactly. I mean the I guess you listen to all the analysts and at that time I had Tom was my agent. You know, he started to look like you're going to be, you know, first quarterback. So what really was as much at which position, but it would be the you know, the first quarterback in the first two teams had pretty solid quarterbacks at the time. So we felt like it was probably going to be the redskins. was was most likely. And growing up in North Carolina before the Carolina Panthers, that's the team you actually all the television was. That was kind of that childhood team that we all watched. And you know, I was the I love John Riggins, I love Bisman and watching those guys and art monk and then, obviously, because we got to play with Daryl Green, which was incredible. Of all, you know the play with and he was still like a kid. He was, I tell my son all the time he was the only guy that ever know that after practice I'm really tough, he would like a kid. He would not run to his car, of course, he ran everywhere he went. He was just like a kid. Love Darrell and and what he meant through our team. So you know, that was kind of where we looked at. It is, we thought it would be the red skins and obviously I met norb and Cam Camera at the time and I mean it it kind of was perfect, you know, a perfect setting. You know, I can't you know, I was proud. I was nervous, obviously, meeting those guys and I had a great, you know, conversation with both of them and I really felt that that was the place I wanted to go, you know, especially with, you know, Cam, kind of felt I felt really comfortable with him, maybe more so than I did norb at the time, and so I wanted that's where I was hoping to go. So you you get picked by the redskins and we know how it all works in Ota's and everything, and you come in for some of the offseason stuff and then you have this where you hold out through your first training camp. How was that for that had to be rough and I mean I got to take those reps because you weren't there and then that worked out, but that had to be very hard for you because you love the game, you love the sport and you're not getting that to be out there with the guys. Yeah, yeah, I think the most difficult thing was is actually remember taking the contract to Charlie Castley and putting it on his desk and said, you know, here's the contract. I mean because, you know, at that point in time you knew what the numbers were. So it was never about the money. It was, you know, there was a voidable year's calls in it. And what it happened was they started, I guess, with the other rounds first and kind of work their way up and you know, tray was the second round pick. So trading come into camphill three or four days late, and so he did. I went into his office in my contract was still set on his desk and everybody was in camp hadn't been open, and so I was like, you know, hey, it's not my fault. And then I was getting all the blame for it and it was just like, I don't know why people were blaming me and it wasn't about money, I mean, because that was your relevant to me period and I guess it was a voidable years that they ultimately had to get the ruling from the NFL and you know, I think Tom took criticism but I think, you know, he saw an area that I could void out years after after the third year, I could void those years out and renegotiate or go to another team. So that was tough. Yeah, I don't think that there was any I mean that was I mean they had done the year before with the other quarterbacks, with breeze and our with drew and and so I really didn't I didn't think it was an issue the rist skins. We just they just didn't, you know, pick up the ball fast enough to be able to get the contract sign well, you know, that's that's interesting. You say that because kind of all that contract dispute with players nowadays, if your first round pick, second round pick, they're almost a little different. And you were one of the first ones that set the tone on how things should start going. And then we get to Sam Bradford later on...

...that just yes, has this mega contract and everything has really changed, you know, and so you were really one of the first ones to really start that whole progression of getting I mean when he signed his contract it was a really big deal and DC and deservedly so. He's a first round pick and you got to go get what you can get. Yeah, it was tough. I mean so I you know I say this. I didn't start off on the right foot with the fans, that didn't turn off the right foot with Charlie Casserley, and you know, I didn't know what to do. I mean out here I was, you know, twenty two, twenty year old guy, and did not have an idea or clue what was you know what I needed to do. Yeah, you should have signed my contract. was been a lot easier. You should have sat attracted a bit, a lot easier, because there anything. It was that's like their sinus. I'm like, okay, sure, whatever you want, whatever you want, I'll do it. It was was your bonus. Twenty Fivezero, which is pretty good. That's what I should pay my wife's college off with that. So that was nice, awesome. Yeah. So, so he you finally come, come into the red skins and you join and you know, you know how Washington is in the media. And there I am, I'm quarterback and I'm taking a lot of the reds that you probably should have had, and I was lucky in that regard, you know, and it was hard for you. And what did you think of this whole situation where there's a seventh round pick and I we know everything that happened and we're waiting too old to have that effect US anymore. But I just I just always wandered. We never really got to sit and talk about how this affected you and in our relationship wasn't what it should have been because of a lot of that situation. Yeah, it was. I mean you always want to be competitive with one another and and that the one good thing that I'm very thankful that you and I both did is we actually handled the relationship, you know, with one another. We didn't let it wasn't out in the public. You know, we handled ourselves, I think, with integrity and character and we didn't allow the you know, device in US between us. I mean, we were very competitive. You want to be the star. I wanted to be the star, and that's what you want. I mean, you won't that topic competitive. It made me a better player, maybe a better person, made you a better player, made you a better person to be able to do that, and you know it was. Now that I reflect back on it, I mean it was not my offense. You know I mean, and I'm not putting place in any blame, but it was not my offense. Once I've got to the West Coast offense with John Bruden with the raiders. It was like I was at home. I mean that was truly my thought process and it sounds odd that that's that was the same theories and the same progressions and the same things, that it was more about reading the defenses and in alternate instead of is he opened as he opens the open kind of the Don Coryelle, or he's mpz North Turner. It was a much different drop back. At least with the West Coast. I could use my legs to get out of the pocket and move and I felt like, you know, it was kind of taken. Eighty percent of my game that I used in college was actually my feet and legs and being able to get out of the pocket kind of taken the stripping me from it. It's like, you know, your your best weapon, your best asset, your best tool. I didn't have it. And so after I look back on it now and I struggled with that offense. I truly struggled and and and you know, gus, I think that was your offense. I mean that I think that's the reason why you were successful. That was a lot of the the similar offenses that you had in college. You know that. You know, the the larger, the seven step dropped back, the big play action, throw the ball down the field. I was used to that fast break, you know, three step, five step, get the ball out really quickly, and it was a different it was it was kind of apples and oranges for me and and and I didn't perform well and I would, I think, under normal circumstances. Regard, I don't think had anything to do with the coaches. It just wasn't my well, I think it is. It does have something to do with the coaches, though. He's because I've been through the situation where I went from that digit system to the West Coast and I'm not a west coast quarterback. So when you're trying to fit square peg into around whole coaches don't really care. They said this is our offense and we're running it. We're not going off what suit you best. We're going to go run what we run. You know, and I saw an article where you talked about rgthree having similar problems right where that wasn't his style what they were trying to do with him there. And you have to sit to what your abilities are, and I felt that way when I watched you play as well is that you know you're trying to do big dropbacks, but your skill set was a lot of running. My skill set was running, not running right. I did not like running at all right, and I felt like it was much as you want to say. It wasn't the coaches. They have...

...to understand who you are and what you were about and try to work their offense to give you the best chance to be yeah, and so going to you know, I got her early in New Orleans. So I dislocated all five of my toes during the Oakland game in New Orleans, and so it was early in the season, my first year. They are with one the game before and things were starting to kind of turn around. The team was starting to jail together. Did good. Was An awesome coach. Love my did God, I mean I have no negative comments. Love might did beyond belief, one of the greatest leaders I had ever been around. But I stepped up in the pocket. We were playing in Oakland. The Baseball Stadium still early in the season, so the baseball stadium was still out about second base. I stepped up through the ball to my receiver and Chester mclachlin, who's obviously since passed now, fell on me and then two of my guys fell on and my heel was in his chest and my toes were in the ground and so all that weight just for all all five of my toes on the top of my foot, you know, and I tore my planner fashion ruptured the sesmoid bones and I had two surgeries, eleven and a half months off crutches, you know, and it's kind of funny how the media always portrays it. I don't know what my career would have been like if I would have had the chance to finish, especially with Oakland. Once I got there is like I am at home, this is where I want to be, but I rehab it got a chance. GRUDEN calls me up and says, Hey, I want you to come here. I said, coach, I'm I'm in a cast. I mean I'm in a cast for two more months. And he says I'm signing anyway, and so bruton sign me with the raiders and went out there and I learn more about in my area. I learned more about the game in the six months of Iles with John Gruten. Then I had had known my fop. Your prior combined understanding, the knowledge of the game, just an incredible coach and truly a guy that loves the game. One of the things that it had to be hard for you, just like we all. I mean I transitioned out o DC as well. But you know, there you are, the number one pick, is this country kid from Fort City comes in and is playing and and they love you know, the media loves a pit US against each other and you know it. And you had to leave the team and then I got to stay for a few more years and I left the team and then Trent took over and it was just like it's always one after another. But how was that Rad Brad Johnson right exactly. But how was that experience for you? Like, emotionally, I can still I still have dreams about the skins and things that I went through, and I just wonder how that was for you. You know, even though it was a battle for us, it wasn't like we were head to head, you know what I mean? It was like we were he would go and I would go. Yeah, yeah, I think truly, I think in like you have to have obstacles in your life and hurdles to overcome, and it does one of two things that either it will make you grow immature, and which is I think that's what I did for me, or it makes you feel bitter, and I don't think that I ever had any bitterness toward the situation that happened. I mean, I'm still a Redskins Fan. I still love the Redskins, maybe not as much as I do the New Orleans saints or the raiders, but I mean I truly have that love for the skins and I'm always wanting to win. You know, any time they play Chicago, I mean any time I played in York, I wanted to win. DALLAS, I want them to win. But I mean it makes us better and it certainly prepared me for my next role in life, which openly become any congress because, you know, man, there are two contact sports. But it prepared me for kind of the negativity and and you know, people not always agree and how you've cast a boat, things like that. So it really to me was it was I needed that as a really because I was so young. I mean I was I was a youngest guy on the team. showed up there and you know, I need a lot of maturity and growth and it there was some tough times at my apartment all by myself, setting there and wondering, you know, nobody that you know. You kind of feel like it's hard to connect and communicate with somebody to understand that's what you're going through and and it was some tough, challenging times, but they need that early. was their division within the locker rooms? Guy's taken sides? I don't really know if there were. I think that it just we kind of for me personally, I felt like it was just whatever the coach was decided. I don't think that there was a lot of division in the locker room. Maybe there was some. Maybe he felt differently about that and you might have, but I felt...

...like we had some good old veterans in the locker room who just wanted to as guy to play. Yeah, I mean then we had some great and I don't think there's really much to business. They wanted to win. I mean we were, you know, prior to us and I get in there, the team was three and thirteen, you know, and so that was it wasn't like that. They were, you know, things were going well and gust and I came in and we were all, you know, we were the reason I mean things were going south at that point in time. But I think the the real the real thing is we all wanted to win and across the board, every one in the locker room, and I think that, you know, the the Timmy Johnson's of the world's at they're Greens of the world's the Ken Harvey is the world. Those guys, Brian Mitchell's, those guys better gust and I work in a situation, you know, to lead quite yet, and you know I said this a thousand times, gusts played better than I did. Gust deserved to be our starter. That was you know, and so I couldn't have fought. I never could fought him for doing well. You know. I could only fought myself for not performing the way I felt like I was capable and far too off. Now I felt like I tried too hard and sometimes I was trying too hard, maybe not as successful, and I just you know. So I always felt like that was an opportunity for gusts and you know, and he played better. I could never deny that and I'm very grateful. And you know, when Gust came in, we started winning. Got Us an opportunity to start winning. Some Games. Yeah, I think we learned a lot from each other. I'll go on to six other teams. Went on to a few other ones, but I think that whole experience and what we went through together, the good, the bad and the ugly, probably helped us grow up a lot. Like he said, we were both young. I was a little older than heath. He came out of college earlier. I spent five years in college, so I was a little older, but that taught us a lot about who we were and how to deal with things. I had started a family. I was dealing with kids and friends and family like you don't understand, like when you're in DC. The family comes out of the woodwork when you say he oh, yeah, it a lot of cousins to come out. I think it was just an unreal experience and I'm so glad that we finally, after all these years, got to talk and hear each other story a little bit and I appreciate everything you said and and heath was just he was very grateful and everything that happened. And you know, it was one of those things where heath never looked down at anybody else, never said a bad word about anybody else, just went out and worked hard and and we're all just dealt. The cards were dealt well. Gus I A, I think part of the help closure for me. So I was in Charlotte, I'll senior vice president Duke Energy, and I was having a meeting at a restaurant and with an outside group and we're talking and I keep hearing this voice behind me. I'm thinking I know that voice and I turn around and looking it was North Turner and I was you know, you always feel like you don't ever hold grudges or you hold something to get someone. But he and I had the opportunity, after he finished dinner and I finished dinner, I had a we had an opportunity to have a conversation and talk and I needed that more than probably anything in my life that I needed some resolve there and some a little bit of I was probably holding the Bruns that I really didn't realize how much that and grudge really was, you know. And I knew that it wasn't him. It was my performance, not hitting, not him, but I just knew that there was something that I needed some closure. And so he and I had the most incredible conversation and talk and you know, he was a new coach and he talked through the things that, you know, that he could have done better and of course I was saying things that I could have done better and and it was a great closure that allowed me to kind of feel good about my conversations with him and something I needed. I needed for a very long time now. I'm really glad you got that because I was going to say I've never had that conversation with him and that is a closure that I still think about sometimes, where that would be great to sit down and talk about everything that happened, you know, because at the end of my ridskins career I had something happened to me. The still was talked about everywhere and instead of him embracing it and helping me through it, he really pushed me in in a bad direction with it and I had to deal with it and I didn't let it affect me like if some people would have. But you know, that's a closure I still haven't gotten. That would be very helpful. So I'm really, really glad you've got that closure with them. Yeah, and it's helpful. I've in life and I think I probably I should have done a better job and maybe reaching out to him earlier because at the end of that I felt as good...

...about that part of my life after having talked to him. You know, I reached out to him when I was trying to make a decision. So I go play back up Brett far or go compete for the starting job in New Orleans? And I asked him straight up, if you don't think I'm ready to be a star and I need to go behind Brett, tell me, and that's where I'm going to go. Sign with the with the packers after I led the ridskins. And he was like no, you should go compete for a starting job down in New Orleans and one of the starting job there. And you know, we were in a great place. I mean it was just one of those things that you can when you get injured early it makes it difficult, but I've had that conversation with him whether or not I could play. But there was other things that we kind of need to clear up. So hopefully you get that opportunity and if you do, come to Charlotte and I'll buy you there. Oh, sounds good, sounds good. I Love Charlotte's great town, good water part there been to yeah, so now you you're out of the NFL. At what point do you see politics in your future? You know, it was a bad day. So so we yet. So when I was in with the red skin, well, when I was with the saints and my brother was getting out of college, he and I had started a real estate company together and so I was I always enjoyed business, love business, and so we ended up starting it because I didn't know if I'd ever play again. So we started that and so we started and we end up selling the company. So we there was four of us, and started the company my brother nine two other guys that we hired and an eighteen months we had two hundred and fifty employees and we were the fastest growing real estate company in the southeast at the time of our murder. It was all organic growth and so we grew it up and you know, we were very fortunate that we sold it before the real estate crash and the financial crash happened. And I had moved from Tennessee, where we had the company, to my wife's hometown in Waynesville, halfway between where we live now and where I grew up, and we were raising money for nonprofits and really kind of helping the community out and I wouldn't say I was retired. I was still doing some development work, but it wasn't to the magnitude that we had been prior. And so we had our kids and so I was enjoying both kids and people kept asking you got to run for robs, you got to run for office, and I started getting a bunch of calls from washing DC, I mean people at you know, kind of begging me to run, you know, wanted me to be involved. The next thing I know, I kept seeing these numbers. It would pop up. It'd be kind of funny who it was, but there was a one two number popped up on my cell phone. Of course I sentata voicemail. Didn't realize that it was Bill Clinton. So and I was like man, that's pretty cool. So I called him back and typically when he called the members of Congress back, of senators back, they please hold, let me find, try to find, you know, the congressmanber of the senator, and and so they give you a little time to kind of think what she's going to say. And so I did that. I called the animals low and behold. If he just answers the phone, it was his self personal cell phone number. He answers the phone and we had about an hour of conversation and after that I really felt let led to serve I mean he talked about, you know, this country's given you heat the whole lot, you know, and you never served in in our military and you should consider serving in Congress. And I couldn't deny that. And so I thought I really felt the led to to serve our country. And so going to Congress and made the announcement that was going to then I had an uphill bable I mean it was a a teen year in combing. A guy who had been in this office for sixteen years was a cardinal, which means he is a subcommittee chairman on appropriation. So it's bring a lot of money back to our community. And and and had one oat significantly overwhelming. They had one that the elections prior and it was an r plus twelve district, which means that I was a Democrat and that means you know it, it was twelve enough and really, yeah, up up hill climb and I had to up hell by it. Yeah. So all right. So you have a conversation with Bill Clinton and everything I've heard about him is that when he talks to it just he just knows how to influence you and hit the right buttons. He would have been busy Lambardi if he was a coach. He is that top of influential personsmatic, you know, very genuine, I mean. And since then he and I had become very close and got to know him over the years and it's been a lot of time together in someone that I truly consider a friend. He he is. He is the most charismatic you know, never forgets a person's name, which is probably one of the most unique gifts that anyone could...

...have. I mean I'm talking about people he hadn't seen in decades and he would know remember their names. It would just incredible. But just kind of learning from, you know, the political angles and strategies, which he did, and he was involved and was pretty awesome. So you weren't the first athlete in Congress, you won't be the one, won't be the last. But what is athletics? All the stuff that you've been through your life and athletics and Sports, how do you compare that to the politics and the and what you went through in that area? Well, I think you know the first let me start with the disappointing thing. You know, I really got there was hoping that it was going to be a team, you know, very similar the way that we were with all of our you know, every team that we were ever on. We really were all pull of rope and the same direction. You know. I wanted our country to move in the right direction, you know, and and it didn't. You know, even internally with even your own party, you know, there was always controversy or issues or problems and people want to do different things. And I never felt that team operated except within my office. And we tried it. We created that within my office and it was a it was a incredible work environment. People I had to beg my folks to go home at night and we've the in Washington and they want to say that they truly loved what the work that which they did. And so we created that. And so then I met with another group called the Blue Dogs, which is the, you know, the more modern conservative members of the Democratic Party, and so that became my team, that became the people that I associated with, that was the group that I hung out with. That was the ones that we agree policy wise, and even we didn't always agree on a hundred percent, we could actually come to common ground and we worked with our counterparts, which was the Tuesday group of very the the moderates of the Republican Party, and so collectively I felt like that group was a part of the team and represented eighty percent of America and their viewpoints. Unfortunately, we were a very small minority within Congress and only the fringe groups and certainly has time it went on, and it's still even worse today, that the fringe groups were controlling the political parties and there was no way to kind of create a sense of compromise. Compromise was a four letter word in Washington and and if you didn't say, you know, stick to your guns and your way or the highway, then you voted against it. And and so that was disappointing that there wasn't the whole Congress wasn't had America first. I felt like they still do this day. They have their party first and then they put America second. There's some great people there, but I say that there's three types of members of Congress. There's the third that are there for all the right reasons. I mean, they truly may want to get to their paths of the same viewpoints, maybe an alternate path, but they truly are there for the right reason. On both sides of the album. There's another third there. There, I think, that are there for greeting power, that are there for their own personal game, and then, I think, the other third. It's the only job they could ever hold down. They've never had any other job but to be a politician, and that's the unfortunate ones. That, to me, that makes Washington not work the way it actually should in a what I would consider a team atmosphere. But that being said, I love the folks that out that I had to deal with on the daytoday. Bess is God, along with both political sides. When I left Congress, I hold it fifty percent of the time of Democrats and fifty percent of the time of Republicans, so I kind of felt like that's where my district was, that's where America was, and had a seventy three percent approval rating and inside. Wow, that's pretty hard. That's going on on toime shows me that you know you've been through a lot in your life. You weren't a career politician to start with. You went into that phase you said this is enough. I know when to get out. You probably had enough of it. You probably good and a little gray, like yes, I'm at all, but you know, it's an amazing transition that you made from sports to politics and now you leave Congress. So I for five years I was Senior Vice President Duke Energy, so we were were the largest public utility in the United States, one of the largest in the world. So hand on their external affairs and working with in a corporate environment, but was challenging. I would definitely say that some of those environments are far more political than Washington is, which was very interesting. Once again put in a team together. That's the thing that I really love and enjoy doing. And business is always has been a, you know, kind of a true interest of mine. I mean I had a car watch business when I was fifteen years old and you had eight employees with the time I was a senior in high school. And so I love business and...

I love grow in businesses. And so after getting kind of that corporate bug and kind of checking that box, you know, I have a consulting firm now that we go in and we help analyze businesses, we grow businesses, we try to put businesses on the right path we grow the revenue, we lower their expenditures, we help them with their marketing, we helped them with their communications, their external affairs, and so I've hired and a part of our team. We've got a very large network of former executives that are subject matter experts and multiple different fields, and so we go in and we help companies, work with private equity firms, we help them grow their margins and be successful. So kind of my last question for you, heath, is so you've been through all this. You're doing some incredible things. You've been in real estate business. I mean you've been in Congress for crying out loud. What would the he shuler off today? Go back and tell that twenty year old he shuler tendency before you gets drapped. How Wow, yeah, and I never say that. I think I don't want to say that. I would never enter the draft again, but I would like hey, because I think the family, and I mean I'm I am now living the greatest time of my life. You know, I'm I'm less in the spotlight than I've ever been since, you know, since I left high school. I'm more in the background, but I'm having the time of my life now. And if it worn't for all of those different challengeches, both challenges of being successful, because I think that that creates its other sense of the successes that you have. You have to overcome other ardles and obstacles. Be Humble, you have to you know how to handle and manage yourself accordingly, because as quickly as you gained it, you can be taken from you. And so and the obstools of overcoming challenges of planning the NFL, you know, and not being not living up to expectations, are not fulfilling the true dreams that I wanted to accomplice, and you know that, to me, has put me in a position now that I'm having the time of my life with my family. I'm the greatest time that I've ever spent. It's really the last two years of love. Know that that is great, because I always say to myself, if I had to go back and tell that young kid back in the day with be a lot smarter with your money and don't go when your daughter turns one, don't go have a big birthday party for and keep your money in the bank, because you're going to want to go on vacation when you turn fifty to somewhere really nice. I went to that party, though. We did yeah, part it was a good party's a good party so in retrospect, but I agree with everything you're saying. He's is like those experience made you made us who we are today. But you know, there's still some things that I know you had some people around your eyes, some people around you, but there was just steps that, you know, you wish you had that person in your ears helping you through some of those times. I'm sure you did too as well. Oh Yeah, and we've all had that advice. I mean we've all made decisions and we were given bad advice along the way, and and that's okay because I'm now hopefully able to recognize those situations now in life. And you know, gus, I just want to tell you, you know, thanks for having me on your show but, more importantly than anything, thanks for US connecting and I think this is going to be kind of another one step, one of multiple steps, and I love to see your family and and see any again and and hopefully we'll get the chance to kind of reunite in person. But thank you for the person that you were with as in Washington, because I mean we could have been adjosarial and kind of butted heads, but not one time when we ever in a meeting that either one of US said anything girararatory toward one another, said anything in the in the media, that media, that was Gerwatory. And so we maintain our composure, we maintain our integrity and I think that's why you've been successful in life and I want to thank you for that. Well, no, I appreciate you saying that and I want to thank you as well for doing all the those things, because I had a great sounding board in my wife and if I ever did say something stupid, she would I'd get home and get glasses for it. But Annie was great and really keeping me ground and keep me humble, and I appreciate you coming on. One last little segment. We do, heath. It's called no huddle. It's our two minute drill and Dave blast a bunch of questions at you and we want need to answer and without thinking and just just get him out. It doesn't take long and and then we'll break it from there. So Day, won't you hit heath with our no huddle? All right, heath, what's the situation to be back up between ARD on. What's our root two minute drill? We're just going to win the game. Yeah,...

...that's our situation. I'd go with his six hundred and ten high jump over the top. That'd be my Goto if I were ye if I can do that. But he can jump over the whole line. Right, okay. So here we go, heath. This is called the no huddle. In your opinion, what's the most overhyped thing in sports today? She's me over. What's the most overhyped thing in sports today? Oh, most overshype thing out, I think these social media. I agree, because I hate how they recruit kids today. That's across the board and all aspects of life and my last day social media are an opinion. I can hide behind another name. Oh yeah, anonymous muscles behind that, but you don't see their face of their name. What's your biggest pet? Peeve biggest pet pee honesty, not people not being honest. What's that? Well, he answered this one earlier. What's a lot of stadium? You've ever played it, but I'm sure it would still but it would still be the swamp in Florida. Yeah, no, NFL could. It's hard for any NFL team to have the loud volume that you actually have in the SEC if you could be one other player, and I think he answered this early, to one other player that has ever played any sport, what athlete would that be? Oh, Cos, I guess I mean another sport. I mean, I guess it has to be a Rod. I mean, you know a rod. I love the way play the game in baseball. That would I mean as far as almost field stuff. I mean he played it and played it extremely well. I like a Rod. What this? You're always a Yankies Fan, but I like to watch a rod the other way. It feels football. He would have to be Earl Campbell. Well, a raid had some nice contracts all so just as a chair on the top one ever could like q of the largest ever right. What rule would you change in sports? If you could change one rule, what would that be? If it was on the collegiate level, I would say that you can't offer a high school athlete until they until the spring of their junior year, and that way, you know, I've got kids of coaching and been around that will being offered in the eighth and ninth grade and I see that and they just lose complete focus of the real task at hand, and that's playing in high school and enjoying that process. To me, that is that's a detriment. NCAA desperately needs to step in. They need to make some changes and in a lot of different areas of recruiting, service type stuff, the there's a bunch of things there that really need to be addressed. So, so, he you've done all these amazing things in your life. I mean I'm sure you could write. You're going to write a book some day. I see that. The next step it's got to be a movie about he shuler. Who Plays you in a movie? Who's like in a movie? Oh my goodness, all right, I guess I would say as guy played in the show the unit. Yeah, yeah, that's the guy sits in the tier of your old the street. Then stay for that. That's who I would I like. He's one of my favorite actors. I just like his calm demeanor, is way approaches things in the in the show the UN. I don't know if he has a six hundred and ten high jump, though few do. Yeah, last thing, what's your favorite TV show? What are you watching right now? To Netflix, what are you watching? Well, I guess I do want the unit that's obviously the one just afy really be my definitely probably justify. I could see heath being a if you watch the yellowstone yet love? Yeah, I could see heath being a big thanks comes on to not actually yeah, there you go. Well, he thanks for coming on the show. Love catching up with you and hopefully we can stay friends for a long time and stay connected. Tell any clothes for me. Yeah, tell Nicole the kids good luck the navy and his future career and and I can't wait to watch him on TV somewhere. You got it. Thank you a great to meet you. Nice to me. You. Thanks, Heath. All right, he take care.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (166)