The Washington Times - August 3, 2012, 07:58PM

Before there was Robert Griffin III, there was Heath Shuler.

The Redskins drafted Shuler, a quarterback, third overall out of Tennessee in 1994 hoping for the same things expected from Griffin now. Shuler lasted only three seasons, though, and is one of the most famous busts in franchise history.


On Friday afternoon, Shuler returned to Redskins Park for the first time since 1996 to see Griffin in action for himself.

There were expectations and pressure then, just as there are now. Shuler believes Griffin will thrive. Not only did Shuler go through it himself, but also Griffin impressed him when they met at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.

“He was the person I was hoping the Redskins would select in the draft,” said Shuler, a U.S. Congressman (D) from North Carolina who will not run for re-election. “So with the expectations high, there’s going to be a lot of added pressure to him. I think he’s someone who can really handle it. He has handled pressure before. I’m very encouraged by the things I’m able to see. The interviews he goes through, I think he does an incredible job. We’ve just got to be mindful that it takes everyone. We’ll have ups and downs as a team. We just got to hang in there with these guys and pull them through and support them.”

Yes, Shuler did refer to the Redskins as “we.” He wasn’t wearing Redskins gear on the practice field, but he did say he has a burgundy and gold hat in his car.

Shuler recalled the intensity of the pressure during his rookie season in 1994. The internet and social media weren’t driving forces in the media, but the scrutiny was palpable. He went 1-7 as a starter that year, as the Redskins finished 3-13. He started only five more games for Washington before the team gave up on him.

“I read the newspapers,” Shuler said. “I saw the stuff, so it was always very difficult. I had come from the University of Tennessee, and everything had been so good, and the path was always a paved road. There was no bumps along the way, and everything was perfect. Then you have these obstacles in the road, and it’s how are you going to handle them. Are you a better person at the end of it?

“I think I’m a better person at the end of the day based upon what I had to go through here. I think it prepares me for things, whether it be a parent and I see my kids go through issues. Or whether in my job, when I see, whether it be our federal government or with my business or whatever, when you see those obstacles, I think I’m a better person because of that. So I’m grateful.

“I think everything happens for a reason. I’ve been able to do something, give back to my country. I always thought I was so focused. I thought that the whole world revolved around what was happening on this field, on this practice facility. I thought the whole world – and now that I’ve been all over the world, I realize it’s important to a very small percentage of people, but it’s important to us Redskins fans. That’s why we’re here.”