Though QB Heath Shuler’s entry into politics has been mentioned previously, it took the end of the baseball season for the New York Times’ Lee Jenkin to check out the Democratic nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 11th District,
first hand.

Because Shuler has been a celebrity since he was 16, he knows how to handle attention, but he says he does not crave it. He maintains that he is more interested in improving education, creating jobs and finding new fuel alternatives than he is in trying to duplicate the thrills of his football days. His campaign has raised more than $250,000, most of it from donors from Tennessee, and he still dresses in jeans, sneakers and T-shirts.

On Friday nights in the fall, work and play blend at a local high school football game. When the game is in Bryson City, Shuler eats an early dinner at Na-ber’s Drive In, where his picture hangs behind the counter. Then he goes to Swain County High, where his photo graces the entrance to the Hall of Fame.

He does not pass out buttons. He does not give speeches. This is not a campaign stop. It is just a man watching a game. When he is asked about the overwhelming odds facing any challenger, he says, “Hey, it’s not like I’m going against Chester McGlockton here.”