It's a numbers game for Shazier


Football players have a unique passion for their jersey number. When they switch teams, big name free agents often times offer cash payments to a younger teammate to buy their number. It's a sense of pride, of identity for them.

"I feel like your jersey number is important to you," said Steelers' number one pick Ryan Shazier. "A lot of people know you for your number, especially because a lot of people don't know our faces. It's really important to me. You try to make your own legacy through your number."

If you search for images of Shazier to see what his number was while playing linebacker at Ohio State, you might get a little confused though. Despite the pride he had for his No. 10, he was more than willing to switch his number for several good reasons.     

During the spring of his freshman season, close friend and former high school team manager at Plantation (Florida) High School Gary Curtis lost his battle with muscular dystrophy. Curtis, who was in a wheelchair, was always at practice and games, wearing a No. 48 high school jersey.

So during his sophomore season Shazier asked for and was granted permission to wear No. 48 when Ohio State played Penn State, wanting to draw attention to the battle those with muscular dystrophy go through.

He did Curtis proud, finishing the game with seven tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception for a touchdown en route to Big 10 co-defensive player of the week honors.

"He was a friend. He was our manager," said Shazier. "That was the jersey he picked so I wanted to wear it for him. We were close friends. I looked out for him. He was always around. He was one of the guys.

"I felt like it was big. I wanted to make sure everyone understood who I was doing it for and why I was doing it. It was a nice stage to do it on."

Shazier would once again change numbers his junior year, going from No. 10 to No. 2, the jersey worn by teammate Christian Bryant who was lost for the season after suffering a broken ankle.

"Christian was one of our leaders on the defense," said Shazier. "I was making sure he was going to be okay. It was like I was playing through him. It felt like he was still out there on the field because everyone knows him for his number.

"He was like a big brother to me. He looked out for me when I first came in. He took me under his wing. When I saw him on the field hurt I wanted to make sure I represented him well."

Shazier said his reason for doing things is just an extension of the way he was raised by his parents, Vernon and Shawn Shazier.

"They raised me to be a respectful young man and take care of others and treat them the way you want to be treated," said Shazier. "I wanted to make sure I did that."

Shazier will wear No. 50 with the Steelers. At least for now, that is.  

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