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November 15, 2011
The students at Tennessee's Brentwood Academy select a service project each year to assist a local charity, then work toward raising as much money as possible for it. When it was time for the current crop of seniors to pick one, Graham Shuler, a standout football player at the school, stepped forward with an idea.
"I'd been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project for a couple years, so I presented it to our senior class to do it as the school-wide project," Shuler said. "Everybody selected it."
To date, more than $7,000 has been raised, primarily through bake sales. T-shirts have been made and a dodge ball tournament has been organized. There's also talk of organizing an obstacle course.
"We're trying to raise $75,000," Shuler said. "That's the goal. The most we've ever raised here is $45,000. They blew it out one year. This is a way for us to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line and have suffered a physical loss or something like that. There are soldiers wounded or suffering from different injuries. This is our way to help."
Through the Wounded Warrior Project, Shuler is trying to honor those who have served our country. On Tuesday, the standout offensive lineman was honored by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, when the selection tour stopped by his school to officially invite Shuler to play in the prestigious game in January -- and present him with his game jersey.
To say the least, the Stanford commit was humbled.
"To even be recognized by the Army, which is one of the most noble types of institutions in our nation, is astounding," Shuler said. "These men and women make sacrifices by putting their lives on the line to protect my freedoms. And they're going to honor me for playing the game of football. It's just beyond me. It's really hard to come up with words for that. It's just a huge honor. Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy. My grandfather that is still living is absolutely ecstatic. He enlisted right after World War II."
Shuler not only has military service in his bloodlines, but football, too. His father, Rob Shuler, blocked for Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson at Auburn in the 1980s. A grandfather played for Marshall. For good measure, Shuler's mother was on the volleyball team at Mississippi State.
"I've been blessed," Shuler said.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Shuler, who is an excellent student, is known for his versatility on the field. As a freshman, he played 12 different positions. Offensive tackle has been his primary spot the past three seasons, however he really feels like he can play anywhere on the line -- even tight end because of his athleticism.
"I feel like offensive tackle is my best position," Shuler said. "It's what I've really settled in at. But my whole thing is, I want to be on the field, making an impact and doing what's best for the team. I'll put my hand down, stand up or do whatever I have to do. I still have plenty of weight to add. It's going to be a fun process to see how I mature the next couple of years."
At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio (the game is Jan. 7, 2012 at the Alamodome), Shuler hopes to bond more with Stanford defensive back commit Alex Carter of Virginia, compete against the best and just relax.
"It's one of the benefits of working your tail off all those years," Shuler said.