It was quite frankly an unfortunate circumstance that the deadline for running back Le’Veon Bell to sign his franchise tag and participate in the 2018 season happened to fall on November 13. Why? Because that was the same day scheduled for the 26th Annual Art Rooney Courage House Luncheon held at Heinz Field, during which Ryan Shazier received the Ed Block Courage Award.
The Ed Block Courage Award is given to a recipient on the Steelers every year voted on by his peers on the team who exemplify—what else—courage, particularly in the face of adversity, and there couldn’t be a more obvious choice for this year’s edition than Shazier.
The Steelers’ first-round draft choice in 2014, Shazier became an instant starter, but really began to come into his own in 2016, making the Pro Bowl that year, and following it up with arguably his best season yet int 2017, until he suffered a life-changing injury.
Since then, we have all been a part of his journey and celebrating every ‘first down’ in his recovery process, having already returned to walking unaided for months now. He is a regular presence on the sidelines during games, even leading cheers beforehand.
“It really means a lot just to know guys understand I have been going through a lot and I continue to push through it”, he said in his acceptance of the award yesterday. “It also means a lot because it’s the people I play the game of football with and they know how much I care about it, and how much I still care about it. It means a lot that they feel I am the one who deserves this award”.
Though it was obvious that he was not going to play football this year, Shazier is still a part of the team. He remains on the Physically Unable to Perform List, officially, and will remain there all season, as he collects his much-deserved salary.
“It’s great being an inspiration, but it’s tough too. To everybody else it seems like you are recovering so fast or doing so well”, he allowed himself to acknowledge. “But it’s still a battle you have to fight. When you are not on a roller coaster, it seems like a fast ride. When you are dealing with it, it’s a lot rockier than you think. Sometimes it’s cool to be an inspiration to others so I can uplift people, but sometimes you are still trying to uplift yourself”.
Though it couldn’t be anything other than the case, it’s almost startling to hear Shazier say that the road has been difficult for him, because he has up to now largely taken great pains to take every step with a smile on his face and to inspire others along the way.
He even refused the descriptor of courage for himself, but merely settled on being thankful to be able to “show people that just because somebody tells you it’s over, it’s not over”.
Shazier’s story isn’t over, either. I assume he still has aspirations to return to the field, but even if he doesn’t he still has a bright future ahead of him, either it remains within the realm of football or in enterprises elsewhere. Whatever he does, however, the Nation will be behind him.