Shuler steps into tradition, pressure

April 26, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, VA — ASHBURN, Va. -- When Heath Shuler walked into the front door at Redskin Park for the first time yesterday, there were about a dozen minicams recording the moment.

"I wasn't expecting that crowd," Shuler said. "It's different. It's already much more different than I expected. There's a lot more pressure in a media sense."

There's a lot more pressure in a football sense, too.

The former Tennessee player is about to step into one of the toughest jobs in football -- quarterback of the Washington Redskins.

In the past 30 years, the job has been held mainly by Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.

Four of them -- Theismann, Williams, Rypien and Kilmer -- took teams to the Super Bowl, and the first three won it. Jurgensen made the Hall of Fame, and Schroeder got to the NFC title game.

"I know the deep tradition the Washington Redskins have. I'm glad to be a part of that tradition. Who knows where it'll go? Hopefully, right to the top," he said.

Even though Shuler knows about the tradition, he probably can't yet understand what it will be like to be on pro football's hot seat.

"I talked with Sonny Jurgensen, and he said, 'You don't know what it's going to be like until it happens.

We'll have this conversation again next year, and we'll see how you like it,' " Shuler said.

Jurgensen, though, didn't give Shuler a sneak preview.

"He wouldn't tell me. He said, 'It's a learning process, and you'll have to learn like the rest of us,' " he said.

Shuler said he's gotten advice from Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who was developed by new Redskins coach Norv Turner.

"He said the most important time is time for yourself. I've tucked it away," he said.

Although Jurgensen said "it's the best place in the world to play," the job is probably tougher than it was when Jurgensen arrived in 1964.

The Redskins had been losing for years, and Jurgensen wasn't blamedfor the poor supporting cast.

Now, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and the fans have been spoiled by success. They're going to expect Shuler to produce right away.

Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer, who were drafted 1-2 last year, had what were considered fine rookie seasons, even though their teams -- the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks -- won five and six games, respectively.

Though the Redskins were 4-12 last season, Redskins fans -- who are quick to boo quarterbacks -- aren't going to be thrilled with five or six victories.

For now, though, Shuler -- who gets his first work on the field at a minicamp Friday -- doesn't seem intimidated by the task. He even gave a lot of thought to picking out his Redskins number -- 5 -- because it's an unusual number for a quarterback.

"My mother has told me you should be as different as you can possibly be in a good way. I don't know of a 5. I want to start a tradition," he said.

The Redskins seemed determined to help him in the draft, too. They picked one defensive player -- lineman Dexter Nottage of Florida A&M.

Their offensive picks yesterday were wide receiver Tydus Winas, who caught passes at Fresno State from Trent Dilfer, lineman Joe Patton of Florida A&M, tight end Kurt Haws of Utah and quarterback Gus Frerotte of Tulsa, whose arrival likely means that Cary Conklin and Rich Gannon will be departing.

BY CONFERENCE

Leading conferences in number of players selected in the NFL draft:

6Conference.. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. No.

Southeastern .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 32

Independent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 27

Pacific 10 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .25

Big Ten .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 21

Atlantic Coast .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 19

Big Eight .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..19

Southwest .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..16

Big East .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 14

Western Athletic .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .13

REDSKINS PICKS

Third round

* Tydus Winas, WR, Fresno State, 5-11, 182: Caught 15, 36 and 42 passes the past three years from Trent Dilfer. . . . Got a lot of notice from the scouts catching Dilfer's passes in off-season workouts. . . . Even though he's listed as being under 5 feet 10, Winas says he's 5-11. . . . Sat out freshman year as Prop 48 student.

* Joseph Patton, G, Alabama A&M, 6-4, 290: A three-year starter who underwent shoulder surgery last December, but says he's made a complete recovery. . . . A project who made the team as a walk-on and only got a half-scholarship his senior season. . . . Needs to work on his technique. . . . Studying to be an electrical engineer.

Fourth round

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