Whenever Pittsburgh Steelers fans need a dose of ear bleach for all the nonsense that they have to listen to surrounding the team lately, they can always turn to somebody like Alejandro Villanueva or Ryan Shazier, two men who share some of the more inspirational stories that you will find in professional sports about where they came from or where they are going.
Shazier, as we all know, suffered a severe spinal injury in December of 2017 during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. At the time of the incident, there was no clarity over whether or not he would ever be able to walk again, let alone return to football.
Since that day, all of Steeler Nation has been a part of his recovery process, though he has understandably been selective about what he shares and when. He has talked on a number of occasions about certainly landmarks in his recovery that he sets, calling them first downs. Most recently, he started jogging several weeks ago. But while speaking at the Super Bowl this week, he suggested that there is another on the horizon is he excited about.
“I am feeling great. I try to get in about five days a week and work out”, he said, referring to the Steelers’ facility. “Every day I am constantly trying to get better. One milestone after the next. I try to make goals for myself constantly, so I always have something to reach for. I have been knocking them off one step at a time. Once I reach my next goal I am going to let everybody see”.
It has been a long, slow, and tedious march back to a fully normal life, and Shazier has admitted in the past that it can be overwhelming at times, as anybody in the same situation would surely feel. Nobody wants to be limited.
But he also appreciates the fact that through this trial he has been able to reach more people than he otherwise ever would have been able to, and to be an inspiration and source of motivation. He has taken the hand that he has been dealt and is playing it to his maximum potential.
Will he ever reach the ‘end zone’ of his milestone chart, which would be the ability to return to football? It’s still too far away to say, but he continues to make progress in his second year of recovery.
Whether or not he is on the field, however, Shazier has remained a part of the team and a big help. He is in the meetings and on the sideline serving as an extra set of eyes and ears, and the team has already talked about continuing to have him around in 2019.