Redskins' future is now Shuler NFL DRAFT

April 25, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins got their quarterback of the future yesterday and a big offensive lineman to block for him.

With an assist from the Indianapolis Colts, the Redskins started the college draft by getting the quarterback they wanted -- Heath Shuler of Tennessee.

As expected, the Colts passed on a quarterback with the second pick, leaving the Redskins their choice of Shuler or Trent Dilfer of Fresno State.

Their choice was Shuler, but they said they would have been willing to take Dilfer if Shuler had already been selected.

"I think you're talking about two outstanding players. I think his overall athletic ability pushed Heath slightly over the top," said coach Norv Turner.

General manager Charley Casserly said: "I think coming into today, our No. 1 objective was to get Heath Shuler."

Dilfer lasted three more picks, until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him with the sixth choice.

Shuler and Dilfer may go head-to-head this season, because the Redskins have the fifth-place schedule, which includes two games with Tampa Bay.

In the second round, the Redskins selected 312-pound offensive lineman Tre Johnson of Temple, who was rated a first-round selection in much of the pre-draft speculation.

The Redskins will select five more players in the final five rounds of the draft today.

Casserly said his goal on the second round was to get an offensive or a defensive lineman, although the Redskins were talking to wide receiver Darnay Scott before the Cincinnati Bengals picked him right before Washington selected Johnson with the next pick.

"We were going to take a big man if one was available," Casserly said.

Johnson played left tackle at Temple, but will start off as a right tackle for the Redskins. He also can play guard.

The Redskins need a tackle because Jim Lachey missed the entire season in 1993 and Ed Simmons missed three games. Mo Elewonibi struggled in Lachey's place, and Johnson's addition may mean Elewonibi is on his way out. Guard Mark Schlereth is another veteran lineman who could be going.

Shuler, though, is the player who will make or break this draft and the team for the next few seasons.

Although veteran John Friesz could start at the beginning of the year, Shuler is the quarterback who's being counted on to rebuild the franchise.

Turner even said the fact the Redskins had the third pick and were likely to get a quarterback influenced him when he decided to take the Redskins job over an offer from the Arizona Cardinals.

"This is one of the big factors in my being interested in the job. The chance to start with a young quarterback and watch him develop is the ultimate, not only for a new head coach, but for any head coach," he said.

Although Casserly said before the draft that Shuler doesn't rate with Drew Bledsoe or Troy Aikman, Casserly and Turner yesterday declined to compare him with any other active quarterback.

"He's got a style of his own," Turner said. "He's a very, very competitive guy."

Casserly had said that Dilfer is a more accurate thrower, but Turner said that doesn't mean Shuler isn't accurate. Shuler is a better athlete and more mobile, the coach said.

"We're talking at a level where Trent's a 9.5 and Shuler's a 9.3 [in accuracy]. I don't see the difference being a factor one way or the other," he said.

Turner said he wasn't worried about Shuler's handling the pressure of playing for the Redskins, where he'll be expected to produce immediately.

Turner said: "I think he'll be able to handle it fine. He's been in a program where he's been playing with 90,000 people yelling. We know there's going to be some growing pains, but we're not worried about him handling the pressure."

Shuler, who was at his home in Bryson City, N.C., where his family held a party for 400 friends and relatives, said he was thrilled to be picked by the Redskins.

"It's terrific," he said. "Washington has the tradition of great players like Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann, great quarterbacks."

He also said he's not worried about the pressure.

"I keep a single-minded focus and continue to play and do the things that got me this far," he said.

Shuler became the 10th quarterback to be selected with the third pick in the draft. The group includes two other quarterbacks picked by the Redskins -- Jack Scarbath and Ralph Guglielmi. None of the quarterbacks picked third have won a championship, although Y.A. Tittle made it to the championship game.

But this was a dream come true for Shuler.

"Since I was in the fifth grade, I've always dreamed. I've worked every day to do my very best, and now April 24 comes around and I get to speak to you as the third pick in the NFL draft," Shuler said.

TOP 10 NFL DRAFT PICKS

Team .. .. ....Player .. .. .. ..Pos .. .. .. ...College

Bengals .....Dan Wilkinson .. .. .DT .. .. .. .Ohio State

Colts .. ....Marshall Faulk .. ...RB .. ..San Diego State

Redskins ....Heath Shuler .. .. ..QB .. .. .. ..Tennessee

Patriots ....Willie McGinest .. ..DE .. .. ..Southern Cal

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