The Inspiring Power of Shazier’s Hope

Ryan Shazier appeared at the Steelers’ South Side facility today to confirm that he has no intention of leaving the game behind.

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Ryan Shazier walked in deliberate but determined steps to a podium this afternoon on the South Side, in need of a cane but under his own strength and still chasing his dream.

“My dream is to come back and play football again,” Shazier confirmed before a packed house in the media room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

He must first learn to walk without a cane — or the helping hand of a companion — before he can run another 40-yard dash.

Shazier identified that as one of the next steps in his comeback.

“If that’s [training] camp, I’m happy for it,” Shazier said. “If it’s the regular season, I’ll be happy for it.

“I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”

As he does so, Shazier is drawing upon heartfelt support from seemingly everywhere. His family, his Steelers teammates and coaches, Steelers fans. Even an elementary school that wrote Shazier get-well-soon letters — each and every student.

“That’s over 500 kids,” Shazier reported. “Everybody has my back.”

In return, Shazier has become an inspiration — to his Steelers teammates and coaches as well as his fans — for the courage and character he’s demonstrated throughout his recovery and rehab after having had his spine mangled in December in Cincinnati.

“He’s never said, ‘Why me?’” General Manager Kevin Colbert has observed.

Nor has Shazier wavered from his desire to play again.

“I played the game since I was 4 years old,” he said. “I loved the game since I was 4 years old. Just because I got hurt doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving the game of football.

“When I got hurt, that’s the only thing I was talking to the doctors about. I wasn’t saying, ‘Man, I might not be able to walk again.’ I was like, ‘Hey, would I be able to play the next season?’”

Shazier understands the severity of what’s happened to him. But his unshakable faith and his uncanny insistence on finding the positive in any situation are sustaining him.

“I’d be a liar if I said there haven’t been any bad days,” he acknowledged. “Everybody has some rough days. But I promise you, if it’s 100 days, probably 95 of them are good days and five of them — I’m not even going to say five, three of them are like neutral days and then two of them are bad.

“I try and stay as positive as possible. If you have a positive mindset, no matter what you’re  doing, as long as you’re trying to do the best you can, most likely the best outcome is going to come your way.

“Especially if you’re working your tail off.”

That’s been complicated as it relates to his 3-year-old son, but also ultimately rewarding for a man of Shazier’s conviction and spirit.

“I know he understands that Daddy’s hurt, and he constantly wants to see me get better,” he explained. “When I was in a wheelchair, he’d be trying to push me in my wheelchair. If I drop a cane, he’ll help me pick my cane up. But it’s kinda cool because you understand he sees I’m getting better. Sometimes, he’ll be like, ‘Hey Daddy, come on, walk,’ or, ‘Daddy, come do this,’ or, ‘Daddy, come do that.’

“Before, when I was hurt a little bit more, he wouldn’t ask me to do some of the stuff that he’s asking me to do now. So just to know that he sees I’m doing a lot better, just to know that I am getting a lot better, it really means a lot, for me and him. The fact that I’m getting a lot better allows me to play with him more, allows me to just do more activities with him when I wasn’t able to do that three months ago. So it really means a lot.”

With that, Shazier walked out of the room, his gait as slow — but also every bit as steadfast — as when he’d entered.

He didn’t look like someone who’d be playing football again any time soon.

But nor did he resemble someone who would entertain, even for a second, the thought of giving up on his dream.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section