Ryan Shazier has proven to be a very inspirational figure over the course of his 18-month journey in recovery from a spinal injury that initially left him paralyzed in his lower extremities. Yesterday, he shared a significant landmark with the world, showing him performing an elevated box jump, the first time we have ever seen him leave his feet under their own power since his injury.
While he has shown tremendous strength and determination throughout the process, he knows quite well that he hasn’t done it alone. Shazier has been blessed to have a tremendous support group that extends as broadly as the simple kindness of strangers who only know him through his story to as close as his own flesh and blood.
His father, the reverend Vernon Shazier, has obviously been there with his son. He spoke to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN about Ryan’s latest ‘first down’ that he chose to share with all of us, saying that “it all began with just trying to jump” in the first place with no box. “It slowly graduated to what you see in the video”.
Normally we see similar videos of athletes jumping up onto boxes of significantly greater height in order to show the explosiveness that they have trained their bodies into being able to perform. None of them come anywhere close to the power of Shazier’s video.
“He’s grinding every day. It’s been very intense”, his father said. “He’s come a long way but has a long ways to go. We’re grateful for the progress he’s achieved. He’s been dedicated to doing all he can to make as much progress as he can. We don’t have a ceiling, just working day to day”.
Until he says otherwise, we have to work under the assumption that Ryan Shazier’s goal remains to return to the football field to play the game that nearly left him paralyzed. Not only that, his stated intention is to reach the Hall of Fame for his play on the field.
Even though the Steelers have already said that they know that will not happen this season, they will still be carrying him on their roster—like last season, to be moved to the Physically Unable to Perform List—in doing so giving him the maximum opportunity to continue the work he has been doing, both in his rehab and in his study of the game, and the business, of football.
And who knows? Perhaps one day he really will be back out there playing football. Needless to say, that would be a tremendously emotional day for all who have been following his road to recovery from before the injury up to now. That includes not just his father and family, but us fans as well.