The Pittsburgh Steelers first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has been and it’s Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier.
Report via Dave-Te’ Thomas
The Ohio State University Buckeyes
Pompano Beach, Florida
Plantation High School
Shazier has heard it all from draft experts to scouts – too “light in the pants,” lacks ideal size, looks like a cornerback and not a linebacker, does not have the strength to take on bigger blockers. Well, the pastor’s son has proven them all wrong, as he is seeing most of those doubters starting to jump on his draft “bandwagon” as decision day for teams is about to commence.
The Florida product takes it all in as constructive criticism. If you ask him, Shazier will tell you that he is his own worst critic, anyway. Still, growing up in the Sunshine State, he patterned his style of play after another linebacker who heard similar critics tout his deficiencies while at Florida State – former Tampa Bay great, Derrick Brooks. In fact, the man who eventually replaced Brooks as the heart and soul of the Bucs’ defense, Lavonte David, is built along the same lines as Shazier and Brooks.
Since becoming a full-time starter for a major powerhouse that regularly faces top-level offenses in the Big Ten Conference, all Shazier has done is record back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons, averaging 9.92 stops per game. Unlike some linebackers that are regarded as “pile jumpers,” padding their statistics with assisted tackles, his 208 solo stops rank sixth in school history, with all of the five players ahead of him having one additional season as a Buckeye under their belt.
Those that say he might not have the strength to defeat offensive linemen need to only look at the way he wreaks havoc in the backfield. As a junior, he made a total of twenty-five tackles behind the line of scrimmage (twenty solos and five assists), getting to the quarterback seven times and causing four turnovers via fumbles caused. His tackle-for-loss figures in 2013 are the third-best by a Buckeye in school history and led the Big Ten Conference while ranking third nationally.
Among active NCAA major college players, Shazier ranks third with an average of 5.36 solo tackles per game (increases to 6.58 per game during his time as a starter). His 208 solo tackles rank seventh within that group and he is ninth with forty solo tackles behind the line of scrimmage. His nine forced fumbles are eighth nationally, as that figure set the school all-time record and rank tenth in league history.
The Ohio State staff credits Shazier’s performance on the field and leadership in the locker room for the Buckeyes overcome a “dark season” when they went 6-7 during his freshman season playing mostly in reserve, to a 24-2 record the last two seasons with the Florida product starting at weak-side outside linebacker.
Shazier admits that his maturity and workman-like approach to the game of football was something instilled in his as a youth by his father. The two are extremely close and the player acknowledges that, “I call my dad almost every day, because he can help me deal with pretty much anything.”
In addition to being a mentor to his son, Vernon Shazier also is pastor at Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and a motivational speaker. A former football coach, he also has made sure to be there for his sons, including Ryan’s younger brother Vernon. If he can’t be there physically, then the phone will have to do.
“I’m really proud of Ryan, and it makes me feel good as a father for how often he consults with me and borrows wisdom,” Vernon said. “We sometimes talk two, three times a day.”
The “things” Vernon Shazier spoke of fall roughly into three categories: “You’re talking about football,” he said. “You’re talking about academics, and then you’re talking about adulthood and the responsibilities that come with that, and also the temptations that come with that.”
From a football standpoint, “One of the main things I’ve talked with him about is seize the moment. I coached high school for twelve years, I work with the Dolphins, and I’ve seen so many kids who have had Ryan’s type of talent and skills, they go to college and they disqualify themselves because of a multitude of reasons. I see guys on the NFL level do the same.
“So from an athletic standpoint, I told Ryan to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunities he is going to have, and understand that it’s a journey.” From an academic standpoint, “It’s simply to get what he needs from Ohio State, which is a degree. That’s an awesome piece of paper to hang on your wall, and it’s one of the great institutions in the country when you start talking about the alumni family you’ll be a part of. I travel all around the country, and there are Buckeyes everywhere.”
And from an adulthood standpoint, “We continue to just lean on those three words: faith, intergrity and discipline. I tell him ‘I’ve been down every road you want to go down,’ and when we talk he borrows that wisdom.” To that end, Ryan said he tries to maintain regular church attendance in Columbus at New Salem Baptist Church. He is likely to be there on Sunday morning, even if it will be just hours after tonight’s Big Ten opener with Wisconsin in Ohio Stadium.
“I feel like I play better, and that I have a better lifestyle, when I go to church, because it’s part of being close to God,” he said. “When sometimes I’m not going regularly, I sometimes feel like everything is not going as well as I really want it to go.”
There is little doubt that Ryan has been influenced by a father who is a pastor. Not every father has that sort of relationship with his son, and vice versa. One could call them lucky.
“I prefer to use the word blessed,” Vernon said. “I believe God’s hand is in all of this, that His favor is on us.
“What’s exciting to me is Ryan now understands it’s unqiue, and it’s the same with my younger son,” Vernon said. “Me and their mother have told them for years, ‘You guys are a minority, because very few kids have the relationships you have with your parents.’ They have games, and often some of their teammates don’t have parents there, very few have a father there.”
Ryan was an All-State outside linebacker at Plantation High School, where the four-star prospect was regarded as the 14th-best linebacker in the nation, earning the 42nd spot on the Florida Top 100 list compiled by Rivals.com. Scout.com considered him to be the fifth-best outside linebacker in the prep ranks and also took notice of his skills playing defensive end and tight end during his high school days.
As a junior, Shazier recorded 87 tackles that included nineteen sacks and 28.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He caused two fumbles, recovered two others, including one that he returned for a touchdown and blocked a kick. That performance earned him second-team Class 6A All-State honors, along with being named All-Broward County first-team by the Miami Herald.
As a senior, the linebacker again delivered 87 tackles, recording 19.5 sacks with four forced fumbles and four blocked kicks. Named Broward County’s Most Outstanding Player that year, he ended his career as the school’s record-holder with 38.5 sacks. The All-State pick ended his prep career by suiting up once more for the Under Armour All-American Game.
Shazier graduated early from high school, enrolling at Ohio State in January, 2011, in time to participate in spring drills. He toiled away on special teams and with the second unit for the Buckeyes’ first ten games, but closed out the year with starting assignments at weak-side linebacker during the last three contests. He would not relinquish that position until announcing for the draft after the 2013 season.
Shazier was named to the Freshman All-American team, as he finished sixth on the squad with 57 tackles in 2011, the most by an OSU first-year player since Andy Katzenmoyer posted 86 stops in 1996. Five of his tackles came behind the line of scrimmage, causing fumbles on two of those plays.
As a sophomore, he garnered All-American and All-Big Ten Conference recognition, as the linebacker paced the team with 115 tackles (70 solos) and 17.0 stops-for-loss, ranking second on the team with five sacks. His average of 9.58 tackles per game ranked second in the Big Ten, as his tackle-for-loss average of 1.42 per game was 17th nationally and led all Big Ten defenders.
In 2013, Shazier was again an All-American and All-Big Ten selection. He led the team with a career-high 143 tackles, as his 103 solo hits rank as the third-most in a season by a Buckeye, and were the third-best total in the nation during the 2013 schedule. His 143 total tackles were also the most by an Ohio State defender since Chris Spielman had 156 in 1987. He also led the league with 22.5 stops-for-loss, third-best in the FBS ranks for the year and also ranking third on the school’s annual record chart.
Two days after the Buckeyes fell to Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl, Shazier announced his intention for leaving school and entering the 2014 NFL Draft. “Playing in the NFL is something that I have been dreaming about since my days in pee-wee football,” Shazier said in a statement released by Ohio State. “I just feel that now is the perfect time for me.”
Shazier had indicated during bowl practices that he was leaning toward returning to school for another year. But, there might not be much else for him to prove with the Buck-eyes. “I’m just going to talk it over with my family and the coaches and just try to get the best analysis that I can,” Shazier said before the bowl game. “When I do make a decision, it will be the best decision for me.”
“I have good speed and I can run down a player anywhere on the field. I’m very quick off the ball too. I’m hard-hitting and very dedicated. I’m always making goals…every game I play I have goals I want to meet,” the junior linebacker noted. “I want to get stronger. I’m also working on my footwork and I just want to learn more about being a linebacker.”
Shazier played in thirty-nine games, starting his final twenty-nine contests at weak-side outside linebacker…Recorded 315 tackles (208 solos) with 208 solo hits and 107 assists, as he posted fourteen sacks for minus 107 yards, 44.5 stops for losses totaling 172 yards and nine quarterback pressures…Returned his only interception 17 yards for a touchdown and deflected fifteen other tosses…Also caused nine fumbles…NCAA Career-Record Results…Among active NCAA FBS players, Shazier ranks eighth in forced fumbles, ninth with forty solo tackles-for-loss and seventh with 208 solo tackles…His average of 5.36 solo tackles per game is third-best among active players…Big Ten Conference Career-Record Results…His nine forced fumbles tied Jammie Kirlew (2006-09) of Indiana for tenth on the league all-time list…School Career-Record Results…Shazier finished 14th in school history with 315 total tackles…Became just the sixth Buckeye to record over 200 solo tackles (208) during a career, joining Chris Spielman (283; 1984-87), Tom Cousineau (259; 1975-78), Marcus Marek (256; 1979-82), Steve Tovar (239; 1989-92) and Mike Doss (228; 1999-2002)…His 44.5 tackles-for-loss rank sixth in OSU annals, topped by Mike Vrabel (66.0; 1993-96), Matt Finkes (59.0; 1993-96), Jason Simmons (56.5; 1990-93), Andy Katzenmoyer (50.0; 1996-98) and Will Smith (45.5; 2000-03)…His fourteen sacks tied Quinn Pitcock (2003-06), John Kacherski (1988-91) and Greg Smith (1989-92) for 17th on the school career chart…Holds the school record with nine forced fumbles.
In 2013, Shazier became just the tenth player in school history to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons…His career-high 143 tackles in 2013 tied Glen Cobb (1982) for 12th on the school annual list and were the most by a Buckeye since Chris Spielman posted 156 hits in 1987…His 101 solo tackles in 2013 are topped by only Tom Cousineau (142 in 1978) and Chris Spielman (105 in 1986) on OSU’s season chart, marking the only times that a Buckeye reached the “century” mark in this category…His 22.5 stops-for-loss as a junior rank behind Mike Vrabel (26.0 in 1995) and Andy Katzenmoyer (23.0 in 1996) in the Ohio State record books. Will Smith (2003), Vrabel (1994) and Matt Finkes (1994) are the only other players in school history to record at least twenty tackles behind the line of scrimmage in a campaign (all three had 20.0).
Chazier’s twenty tackles vs. Indiana in 2013 are the most by a Buckeye since Chris Spielman had 22 vs. Washington and 29 vs. Michigan during the 1986 season…His five tackles-for-loss vs. Indiana in 2013 tied the school record he now shares with John Simon (vs. Nebraska in 2012), Andy Katzenmoyer (vs. Arizona State in 1996), Jayson Gwinn (vs. Indiana in 1993) and Judah Herman (vs. Iowa in 1991)…His sixteen solo tackles in the 2013 Indiana clash tied the OSU record that was first set by Tom Cousineau (28 total) vs. Southern Methodist in 1978.
The undisputed leader of an Ohio State defense that ranked seventh nationally vs. the run (102.6), 21st in scoring (21.3) and 29th in total defense (362.2), Shazier was named first-team All-American by The NFL Draft Report, Associated Press, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today…The Butkus Award finalist and Bednarik and Lott award semifinalist added All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors and was twice named the Lott
IMPACT Trophy national player of the week, along with tying a Big Ten record with three conference defensive player of the week honors this season, giving him five for his career…Became the tenth Buckeye to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons, as his 143 hits led the league and ranked tenth nationally…His 103 solo tackles are the third-best ever by a Buckeye in a season and ranked third in the FBS while leading the league…
Also led the Big Ten while finishing sixth in the nation with 22.5 stops for losses of 77 yards, including six sacks for minus 36 yards…Credited with six quarterback pressures, four pass deflections and four forced fumbles…Registered at least ten tackles in seven games and had at least one stop-for-loss in all but the Iowa and Clemson contests…Had twelve tackles (10 solos) and caused a fumble on a sack vs. California…Produced nine hits with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including one that caused a fumble vs. Wisconsin, followed by a ten-tackle performance at Northwestern…Had a fourth-down sack among his ten tackles vs. Penn State and added a pair of sacks, three stops-for-loss and seven solo tackles vs. Purdue…In a four-game stretch, he registered 62 tackles, the most in school annals over a similar span…Began that march with sixteen tackles (11 solos), 1.5 sacks, 3.5 stops-for-loss and a forced fumble vs. Illinois, followed by a career-high twenty tackles (16 solos) and five stops behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack that caused a fumble vs. Indiana…Then collected fourteen hits (7 solos), as he assisted on a sack vs. Michigan and delivered twelve tackles (10 solos) with two pass break-ups and 1.5 stops-for-loss vs. Michigan State…Closed out his career with nine tackles (7 solos) vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Shazier earned second-team All-American accolades from The NFL Draft Report and honorable mention from Sports Illustrated, as the All-Big Ten Conference first-team choice started all twelve games at wek-side linebacker…Led the team with 115 tackles (70 solos), ranking second in the league with an average of 9.58 hits per game…Made five sacks for minus 47 yards, a team-high 17.0 stops for losses of 78 yards and three quarterback pressures…His average of 1.42 stops-for-loss per game led the Big Ten and ranked 17th nationally…Deflected eleven passes and intercepted another for a 17-yard touchdown return…Produced at least ten tackles in six contests, including thirteen hits (10 solos) as he caused a fumble on a sack vs. California…Followed with another thirteen hits (7 solos) vs. Alabama-Birmingham and delivered ten tackles with a sack vs. Nebraska…Deflected a career-high five passes vs. Indiana and posted twelve stops vs. Purdue…His only career interception was returned for a score vs. Penn State, as he caused a fumble on one of his two sacks and was in on eight tackles…Had a season-high fourteen tackles (11 solos) with two stops-for-loss vs. Illinois, adding twelve hits (9 solos) and a season-high three stops behind the line of scrimmage at Wisconsin.
Shazier played in all thirteen games as a true freshman, starting the final three contests at weak-side linebacker…Finished sixth on the team with 57 tackles (37 solos), the most by a first-year Buckeye since 1996…Had three sacks for minus 14 yards, five stops for losses of 17 yards and two forced fumbles.
Shazier never missed any games, but was limited in 2013 spring camp with a muscle/ tendon injury…Did not complete agility tests at the 2014 NFL scouting Combine due to a left hamstring pull.
4.38 in the 40-yard dash (best time for any linebacker participating at the Combine)…1.56 10-yard dash…2.58 20-yard dash…4.21 20-yard shuttle…6.91 three-cone drill…42-inch vertical jump (top performance for all linebackers at the 2014 Combine)…10’-10” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times…32 3/8-inch arm length…10-inch hands…
78 5/8-inch wingspan.
Shazier attended Plantation (Pompano Beach, Fla.) High School, playing football for head coach Steve Davis…The All-State outside linebacker was rated a four-star prospect and regarded as the 14th-best linebacker in the nation, earning the 42nd spot on the Florida Top 100 list compiled by Rivals.com…Scout.com considered him to be the fifth-best outside linebacker in the prep ranks and also took notice of his skills playing defensive end and tight end during his high school days…As a junior, Shazier recorded 87 tackles that included nineteen sacks and 28.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage…Also caused two fumbles, recovered two others, including one that he returned for a touchdown and blocked a kick…That performance earned him second-team Class 6A All-State honors, along with being named All-Broward County first-team by the Miami Herald…As a senior, the linebacker again delivered 87 tackles, recording 19.5 sacks with four forced fumbles and four blocked kicks…Named Broward County’s Most Outstanding Player that year, he ended his career as the school’s record-holder with 38.5 sacks…The All-State pick ended his prep career by suiting up once more for the Under Armour All-American Game.
Shazier is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Business Management…Son of Vernon and Shawn Shazier…Father is the Miami Dolphins’ chaplain…Born 9/06/92 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida…Resides in Pompano Beach, Florida.