It was last month when Ryan Shazier proudly shared a photo of his son, Ryan Jr. (R.J.), for his first day of pre-kindergarten, ready to start off the new school year.
Later that day, Shazier could have opted to share another back to school photo, but this time he didn’t.
That photo would have been his first day of school, first day of taking classes at the University of Pittsburgh.
“We went back to school the same day,” said a smiling Shazier. “He had his first day of pre-K and I had my first day of school. It was kind of cool to see him go to school for the first day. He was excited about it. And for me, I was in class that night.”
Shazier, who went to Ohio State where he majored in psychology and minored in business management, left school a year early and never earned his degree. In his mind, he knew it was something he wanted to accomplish one day, but when was the question. The timing now is just right.
“I always wanted to go back to school, even before I got hurt,” said Shazier. “It has always been important to me. I feel like I never accomplished something I always told myself I would. I want my kids to have better opportunities than me. I know it’s going to be a stepping stone for them and myself, to show them I have my degree.
“This is something I really wanted to finish because I know how important it is. My mom and dad have their degrees. Michelle (my wife) has her degree. I want to start a foundation for our family that this is the standard. I want R.J. to know this is the standard and we are trying to build our family.”
While it’s something Shazier has always wanted to do, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sure, Shazier has been accustomed to sitting in a meeting room learning football terminology since he was drafted by the Steelers in the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft, but that school is a whole different story.
“I hadn’t looked at this stuff in a long time,” said Shazier. “I was taking notes. I take notes in football, but for me that is second nature. Now I have to really focus on trying to use that same approach in school.
“It’s exciting. It’s also nerve-wracking. We’re doing stuff in class that I am like okay, I don’t remember all of this. Some of the stuff is from things I did in class six years ago and I have to re-learn everything. It’s kind of cool because it’s the process of learning and trying to get new information again. I am excited and trying to move forward and learn as much as I can.”
Shazier takes classes three nights a week, with them ranging from two to three hours each. And when he first arrived, he admits the students did a double take.
“I walked into class and a few kids noticed me,” said Shazier. “Then we had a short break because all of my classes are long. We had the break and some students came up to me and talked to me. After we left class there were about 20 students waiting for me. I was like how do you know I am here? It was cool. They are students, but they are also fans and people who appreciate the work I have put in in rehab and football. It was a cool experience.”
It’s also a challenging experience. This is a huge change for a Shazier,
“I went on YouTube to look up how do you study for college,” said Shazier. “I studied in college at Ohio State, but we also had tutors who gave us a push when it came to studying. I have to study by myself. I am just focusing and learning as much as I can and gathering as much information as I can. I am excited.
“I eventually want to get my master’s in business. But I have to take care of this first. That is one of my goals, to get that done after I am done with this.”