A football player’s worse fear is a career ending injury. Although injuries are part and parcel of an athlete’s life, one that ends a player’s livelihood, although rare, is feared the most.
During a game against the Cincinnati Bengals last season on December 4, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal cord injury that, not only put him out for the rest of the season, also put his football career in jeopardy. Many believed his football days were over.
The player has amazed football fans with the rate of his recovery. During April’s NFL draft, the focus drifted from the Steelers anticipated number one pick to Shazier taking a long walk onto the podium, accompanied by his fiancée Michelle Rodriguez, to announce the Steelers choice.
At the time, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert captured the moment when he commented, “You saw Ryan Shazier take some very inspirational steps. That’s a huge lift not only for him but for us.”
Since then, Shazier has continued to make further progress and June 6 he held a press conference at the Steelers South Side training facility to thank all the people who have contributed to his recovery, the doctors, teammates, the Steelers and fans.
Shazier made his ambition clear, “My dream is to come back and play football again”, before he acknowledged, “My next goal is to be able to walk by myself without a cane or holding somebody’s hand.”
“I have played this game since I was four years old. I have loved this game since I was four years old. Just because I got hurt, doesn’t mean I don’t love the game. I feel when you give your best in anything that you do, it makes it easier when something happens to you because you never have to look back and regret that you didn’t go hard enough. I gave it everything I have. I got hurt. And I am still going to give it everything I have to come back.”
While he is currently working with the coaching staff, Shazier told reporters that the coaches and Mr. Rooney will decide what his role is for the season. He conceded it’s been “cool to learn in the ins and outs of the scouting and coaching departments to learn both of them”, but he emphasised his aim is to play football.”
“A lot of people have told me ‘you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that’”, but he admitted he doesn’t have a fear of playing the game. “I feel everybody has some rough days. I promise you if it’s 100 days, probably 95 of them are good days and five of them, I am not even going to say five, three of them are neutral days and two of them are bad. I try to stay as positive as possible.”
He confessed that since he was young he has always felt that a positive mindset would mean the best outcome will come your way, especially if you work hard and that’s how he’s approaching the future.
“I’m not surprised at where I’m at and I’m doing a lot better than I expected at first,” he told the press. “I tell my family all the time, when I see the ramps for a wheelchair or accessible areas. Before I got hurt, I never paid attention to those as much as I do now… when you have a wheelchair you really appreciate little things like that. Before, you didn’t…”
This is a young man with determination and if anyone can come back from this injury and play football again, Ryan Shazier can and will.
I appreciate that a lot of Steelers and football fans are just pleased to see him walking and want it to end there grateful for his recovery, but HIS dream is to play football again. Let’s get behind the man and root for his return in a black & gold jersey.
Above image copyright @SteelUK.