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VIProfile: Heath & Nikol Shuler

Story by Megan Venable

"This is home."

That’s why the Shuler family returned to Knoxville.

After meeting in North Carolina on a high school blind date, Nikol Davis and Heath Shuler are now celebrating 25 years of marriage and two children, Navy and Island. Heath enjoyed a stellar career as quarterback for the Tennessee Vols during his undergraduate years in the 1990s. He then went to the National. Football League and spent time with the Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders), New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders. Forced into early retirement due to a foot injury, Heath went on to serve his country for six years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina’s 11th district.

Nikol followed Heath to study at the University of Tennessee and calls that decision “icing on the cake.” The two were married in the off-season while Heath was with the Saints. Spending her time raising their children as a stay-at-home mom is a choice Nikol takes evident pride in making. Their decision to return to East Tennessee was cemented when Navy walked-on as quarterback for the Vols after spending time playing football and studying at Appalachian State University.

Now, their legacy continues. And what a legacy it is.

On September 9th at the Vols’ home opener vs. Austin Peay, Navy and Island (a member of the UT Dance Team) were the sixth and seventh Shulers to run through the T. They are following Heath’s brother Benjie, along with other Shuler football kinfolk: Blake, Lamar and West. The two siblings plan for Navy to slow down to the back of the pack with his fellow footballers and Island to push a little faster at the head of the Spirit Squad. That way, they can run side-by-side to celebrate the iconic Neyland Stadium tradition. 

The family of four share a strong family bond. Island recently accepted a bid as a legacy in her mother’s sorority, Phi Mu, and the two enjoyed a special bid day at the house in Sorority Village. Even though Navy busts his father’s chops about breaking most of Heath’s high school football records, he plays the same position as his dad did at UTK. The two siblings are strongly independent and vocal about wanting to follow their own paths but are happy to lean into the leadership and guidance of their parents. The start of school has Nikol out of the house much of the time and unable to prepare meals in her own kitchen, but the four of them do try to have a meal together at local eateries as often as can be arranged.

When asked what their plans are now that they are officially empty-nesters, Heath and Nikol simply shrugged and claim to be taking it day-by-day. They certainly plan to attend every
home football game to cheer on their Vols, also travel to as many away games as they can. You can find Heath enjoying street biking and Nikol engaging in yoga and Pilates.

After experiencing life in various cities across the U.S.A, the Shulers are proud to once again call Knoxville home – and Knoxvillians are delighted to welcome them back. 

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