PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Supporting himself with a cane in his right hand, Ryan Shazier walked to the podium at Steelers headquarters on Wednesday. That alone is an accomplishment, steps along the way, but not enough for the 25-year-old linebacker.
“I want to be able to start walking a little bit more without my cane,” he said in his first news conference since suffering a spinal injury last fall.
It happened during the Steelers game in Cincinnati on a hit that didn’t appear that vicious but put the word paralysis into the conversation.
“The moment I got hurt, it might have been a little scary,” Shazier said. “But I asked the Lord to watch over my life. I know that the Lord has a bigger purpose and he would make sure everything was going to be okay. I’m not going to lie, that it was scary at the moment. My dream is to come back and play football again. I’ve been working my tail off every day.”
“I wasn’t saying, will I be able to walk again? I was saying, will I be able to play next season?” he said.
Shazier says many forces are powering his recovery. His faith: “I know it’s going to be a long process, but I’m working my tail off constantly trying to get getting better and trust the Lord.”
His family: “Michele, my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my son.”
The constant support of his teammates.
“They have come to see me in the hospital, in rehab, and even in my house. It has been so supportive of me going through this,” he said.
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Defensive captain Cam Heyward says Shazier is an inspiration.
“Ryan has defiantly jumped over a lot of hurdles and I’m excited for him to keep climbing this mountain,” he said.
And the fans who have lifted Shazier up every time he’s appeared in public at a hockey game, or a football game.
“Just seeing how loud the stadium got and everybody was happy. Just seeing that many people supporting me, everybody has my back. All the support I’ve been getting from everybody else allows me to push even harder,” Shazier said.
Shazier finds comfort in staying close to the team. He’s been working as a scout and a coach while undergoing hours of daily rehabilitation exercises at the Steelers facility and at home. Shazier says his doctors are “telling me to take it one day at a time, and the further we get along in rehab, the better they can give me answers.”
But there’s only one answer he’s looking for – the chance to put on No. 50 again. Something he’ll do with no fear of being hurt again.
“I’m fine with whatever outcome I get with it. I’m fine with that. I’m just trusting the Lord. If he gives me the chance to play again, I’m going to give it everything I have,” Shazier said.
As he is every day at home with his 3-year-old little boy.
“The fact that I’m getting better allows me to do a lot more with him, which I wasn’t able to do three months ago. So it really means a lot,” he said.
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Shazier is a firm believer in the power of positivity.
“I always think the best case scenario rather than the worst case scenario. I always felt from the time I was younger if you have a positive outlook no matter what you’re doing, if you try to do the best, you can most likely expect the best outcome is going to come your way,” he said.
“I have loved the game since I was 4-years-old. Just because I got hurt don’t mean I’m going to stop loving the game of football,” Shazier added.
In February, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert announced that Shazier would not play during the 2018 season.