Ryan Shazier is in Atlanta sharing his story with different media outlets at the site of Super Bowl LIII.
During one of his interviews, with Fox Sports Radio, Shazier talked about the play against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 4, 2017, that left him with a spinal injury.
Shazier said he knew when the play happened that something wasn’t right.
“It was definitely a moment that this is not something I am used to,” said Shazier. “I was like whoa, what is going on. I thought I was trying to make a regular tackle. That was the one tackle I thought about, I was focused on trying to make a safer tackle. I ended up hitting his helmet. It was a feeling I never felt before. It changed my life.”
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 definitely want to play. 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.”
Shazier also appeared on NFL Network's Super Bowl Prime hosted by Deion Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson and Chris Rose and provided an update.
“I am feeling great,” said Shazier. “I try to get in about five days a week and work out. Every day I am constantly trying to get better. One milestone after the next. I try to make goals for myself constantly, so I always have something to reach for. I have been knocking them off one step at a time. Once I reach my next goal I am going to let everybody see.”
Shazier, who was with the team all season working out and progressing, also has been working out at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex since the season ended.i
“I am with them every single day,” said Shazier. “Some days I might be a little tired. Some days it might be a little rough for me. Some days I might not come in as early as everybody or be there the exact same time. I am pretty much there every day.
“I still go there right now. I am still in the facility every day working out, trying to get better.”
The segment on Super Bowl Prime opened with video from the 2018 NFL Draft, when Shazier walked across the stage in what was an emotional moment not just for him, but for everyone who knows his story, including Sanders who admitted he cried seeing him on draft day.
“I feel really thankful,” said Shazier after watching footage of it. “The Lord really has been blessing me. Sometimes it makes me want to cry. The Lord is listening.
“I have been working my tail off. Every day I am grinding. It really felt good for me to see you (Sanders) crying for me. It shows me how much other people care. It was kind of cool.”
While Shazier has been there for his teammates day in and day out, from practice to games, it hasn’t always been easy for him.
“It’s very difficult for me just being there,” said Shazier. “It motivates me and pushes me more and more every day. I am not going to lie. Before every game I hear the National Anthem, knowing when I hear the National Anthem it’s time to play. It eats me inside. Sometimes I might start crying when the National Anthem is on. It’s tough sometimes.
“I know I am still motivating those guys because they see me pushing every single day. It pushes them too. Sometimes it hurts because I might see our defense went on a slump and we didn’t have any turnovers and I knew I could have gone out there and made something happen or made a play. At the end of the day I just have to give them the knowledge I have and try to help them every single day I can.”
Shazier, whose fiancée Michele recently gave birth to their son Lyon, said he still gives kids the same advice he did before about playing the game he loves so much.
“I tell kids the same thing I told them before,” said Shazier. “Just because I got hurt doesn’t change things. You go out there and play the way you love the game. The game gives you what you deserve. I don’t feel like I deserved this. At the end of the day the Lord had a message for me. I am reaching out to a lot more people than I probably would have even if I won the defensive player of the year award or anything like that. I tell them if you go out there every day and play like you love the game of football, football is going to show you the love back.”