Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier has certainly been getting around lately, making very public appearances in Pittsburgh to kick off the Pittsburgh Penguins’ quest for a threepeat and then back to his alma mater to help Ohio State with their spring game. He and fellow alumnus Malcolm Jenkins served as honorary captains.
It’s not out of the ordinary for well-known professional athletes to make such appearances, but the attention that Shazier receives for them is a bit different for obvious reasons. The fifth-year player has already been ruled out for the 2018 season as he remains sidelined indefinitely with a spinal injury that temporarily paralyzed him in the lower half of his body.
The captain of the Scarlet team, Shazier rode out to the field operating a golf cart and stood to greet the crowd, seemingly moving well as he did last week in Pittsburgh. While he clearly is still experiencing some weakness (lifting his leg back into the cart, as Melanie Friedlander pointed out), that shouldn’t exactly be a surprise, and he has made tremendous progress since December.
As he said to ESPN yesterday, he continues to get better every day. “I’m doing a thousand times better than I was in December and I’m just thanking everybody and all the prayers because that’s definitely helping me get a lot better”.
Shazier also talked about his appearance with the Steelers’ website, talking about how Buckeyes Head Coach Urban Meyer came to see the linebacker while he was still in the hospital after suffering his spinal injury.
“He told me if I was feeling good, he wanted me to come and be one of the honorary coaches”, he said. Me being a proud Ohio State alumni and fan, I couldn’t say no”.
As most NFL players are, Shazier still holds an allegiance to his alma mater and follows their success or failure on the field, expressing optimism in the Buckeyes’ future. He did admit that there were some mixed emotions about going back out on that field, presumably the first time he’s been on the playing field of a football stadium since he was lying on one immobile from the waist down.
“It’s a good feeling to be on the field, but it hurts for a second”, he told the team’s website. “I was talking to a good friend of mine on the phone and sometimes when you are at the games, or in the moment, it kind of hurts dealing with my situation. But it’s a great day, a lot of fun, and good to be a part of”.
That is one thing that we haven’t really heard much from Shazier since his injury. We know obviously that there must some be some psychological struggle, but he has publicly shown such a strong face that he has seemed nearly to take it in stride.
“It motivates you when you get the reaction you get from the crowd”, he added. “The people at Ohio State loved me before I got hurt. The people at the Steelers loved me before I got hurt. Just the fact that I am going through this, so many people have been reaching out, praying and having their hands of protection around me. It really means a lot”.