Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has been honored over the past few months for the courageous battle he has fought and is winning, and another honor has come his way.
Shazier was voted the 2019 George Halas Award, named by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).
The Halas Award, named after the Hall of Famer and Chicago Bears icon, is presented to an NFL player, coach or staff member who has overcome the most adversity to succeed.
Shazier’s story is an amazing one.
Going into the 2017 season one of Shazier’s goals was to just be healthy, to get through his first season without having to battle the injury bug.
“That is one of the most painful things,” said Shazier back in June, 2017. “It’s not like people get hurt on purpose. I know I have the ability to be one of the best linebackers in the league. I just want to do the best I can to stay healthy, do what I can to help this team and show everybody what I really can do.”
Shazier was doing just that as the 2017 season was rolling along. He led the defense in tackles numerous times in the first few months of the season, had three interceptions and 11 passes defensed. He was on his way to doing what he wanted to do…showing everyone he was one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
On Dec. 4, 2017, everything changed.
Shazier suffered a spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals that night and underwent spinal stabilization surgery two days later.
He has been an inspiration since that day, taking a positive approach to his recovery. He didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself, instead getting out and doing everything he could, first coming to Heinz Field for a game, then standing at a Penguins game, walking across the stage at the NFL Draft to announce the Steelers No. 1 pick, and walking across the practice field on his own during training camp much to the delight of Steelers Nation. When the Steelers played in Cincinnati, he visited the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the facility he was taken to immediately after the injury, to say thank you to the staff.
Shazier has made incredible progress since the injury, to the point now where he is walking on his own, lifting weights, and making strides many never could have imagined.
“My doctor said I am further than they expected me to be,” said Shazier. “The rehab, the recovery and the pace I have been doing, there are no doors closed. He said you have to keep working, keep grinding. How hard you work is a possibility if you can make it back or not.”
Shazier said his goal is to ‘definitely’ play football again, and he is working daily on fulfilling that.
“I try to tell people at the end of the day, just because I got hurt, doesn’t mean I lost the love of the game of football,” said Shazier. “I love football so much. I just care about the game. I really feel like the game has taken me places I never expected to go. I am putting my everything into it. I feel like I was the best linebacker in the league. I don’t want to leave that as my legacy. I feel like I have so much to show.
“From where I was at to where I am now is a testimony to God. It also tells you never give up on your dreams, never give up on what you want to be. Always keep pushing. It feels great to be back out there able to lift weights. Just to get back to where I was, lifting weights, doing football type of things, feels great.
“I always have a positive mindset. Always stay positive. No matter how bad the situation might be, there is always a window of opportunity to always get better, always keep pushing. A lot of people never thought I would be walking again. I just trusted myself, trusted the Lord, kept pushing and I am here.”
Shazier is the third player in Steelers history to win the award, previously presented to Rocky Bleier (1975) and John Stallworth (1985). Steelers running back James Conner was also nominated for the award.