Mickey Shuler Jr. played for seven NFL teams in five seasons — recording stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.
But first, Shuler Jr. was a tight end at Penn State from 2005-09.
The Vikings’ 2010 seventh-round pick, who last played in the NFL in 2015, joined us for “Five Questions,” discussing current Nittany Lion tight end Mike Gesicki, the evolution of the tight end position and what it was like bouncing around from city to city.
Q: I’m sure you keep tabs on the current Penn State team. When you watch a guy like Mike Gesicki, what does he do that really stands out to you?
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A: He’s very gifted athletically, and I think he’s matured a lot the last couple of years. He’s turned into really a complete tight end. And what is he? 6-foot-6? When you can move and control your body like he does and start putting all the little things together, you start being productive like he is. And when you have a good quarterback and offense, good things can happen.
Q: How different is the tight end position now than it was when you were playing at Penn State?
A: We definitely blocked more. (Andrew) Quarless was more of the receiver at Penn State; I was more of a blocker. But tight ends are utilized a lot more today at every level. These guys are becoming bigger, faster, stronger and they’re just such mismatches with linebackers and safeties. When you split them out, you can pretty much do whatever you want. It’s just a nightmare matchup when you have these guys that are that big and that fast and can catch and run like a receiver. ...The tight end has just become another weapon. He’s a receiver, yet he’s a lineman, and the defense just doesn’t know (how to defend it).
Q: In your five years in the NFL, what was the one thing that you learned? I mean, you had more teams than years in the league. What did that experience teach you?
A: Man, just really that you can only control certain things — it’s how you come to work every day and approach it the same way with your work ethic and attitude. Don’t worry about making a team or worrying about things outside your control. Like, how many balls am I going to get thrown today? How will I be utilized? What’s the weather? Ah, it’s cold (laughs). Just worry about what you can control. That’s the best thing I learned. Going from team to team, it was getting an offense down and getting comfortable in it. Then something would happen and I’d get cut and go to the next team. It’s hard. You don’t want to look back and think about what you could’ve done differently. It’s on to the next thing and what’s ahead of you.
Q: It must’ve been wild though bouncing from city to city. You went from Buffalo to Phoenix to Atlanta really in a three-month period in 2013. In that span in particular, what was the craziest part?
A: I was hurt (laughs). I got released by Oakland because I had a hamstring injury, and then the Bills claimed me and so I went there. They knew I was hurt, but they still wasted a waiver (pick). It was in the offseason so it didn’t really matter, so they picked me up. Then I didn’t do anything all offseason there, show up to camp healthy and they were so generous that they made me come up to camp and then cut me as soon as I checked in. I went home thinking I was probably done. But then Arizona claimed me. Two weeks into camp I was like the seventh tight end. Those three months were a whirlwind.
Q: I won’t put you on the spot and ask who was the best, but what quarterback was your favorite to work with in your NFL years?
A: I mean, Matt Ryan was probably the quarterback I worked with the most because Atlanta was the team I spent the most time with on the practice squad and I played in a game for them in the regular season. I was there for two years and some change. I probably developed the best rapport on the field with him. But one cool memory I had was when I was a rookie. In practice, I got to play with the first-string guys and I was a decoy on a play, and Brett Favre was obviously the quarterback my rookie year (with the Vikings). The play wasn’t designed to go to me; I was just running a go-route on the backside. But he throws me a touchdown pass. That was a fun memory, having grown up watching him.