Each year Steelers’ players vote for the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, an award normally given to a teammate who has come back from a season-ending injury the year before, to work their way back onto the field, back into the lineup as a solid contributor.
This year, their vote went to someone who truly is the picture of courage, someone who faced adversity head on and attacked it, and continues to attack it every day.
Ryan Shazier was voted by his teammates the recipient of the 2018 Ed Block Courage Award, an award he will receive at the 26th Annual Art Rooney Courage House Luncheon on Nov. 13 at Heinz Field, which benefits Holy Family Institute.
“It really means a lot just to know guys understand I have been going through a lot and I continue to push through it,” said Shazier of winning the award. “It also means a lot because it’s the people I play the game of football with and they know how much I care about it, and how much I still care about it. It means a lot that they feel I am the one who deserves this award.”
Shazier suffered a spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals last December and underwent spinal stabilization surgery. He has been an inspiration since that day, taking a positive approach to his recovery, something that has led him to where he is today.
“It’s amazing to see someone fight as hard as Ryan, to fight back to where he is now, it’s incredible,” said Vince Williams. “That is the type of person Ryan is. He has always been like that. I don’t think anything would break that type of spirit that he has.”
This past weekend, when the team returned to Cincinnati to play the Bengals, 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.
On Sunday Shazier walked on the field at Paul Brown Stadium under his own power, led the linebackers before the game, and inspired the team in their comeback.
“To see a guy like that and how much he’s been through, all he’s given us is extra pride and determination,” said David DeCastro. “What he’s gone through and how strong he is as a man and human, it’s inspiring. Everybody gained a little strength from him.
"I don't know if I could do the same thing myself. I don't know, I'd probably be a hermit and walk away and feel sorry for myself.”
He never has done that. His visit to UCMC was another example of his strength, of facing things head on. He never sat 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, walking across the practice field on his own during training camp much to the delight of Steelers Nation, and returning to Cincinnati.
“Those things definitely helped feed me,” said Shazier. “The first game, coming back with the Terrible Towel. It meant so much to me being there. I have been with this team from the moment I got drafted. Pittsburgh had my back from the moment I got drafted. They might get mad that I drop a pick now and then, but they had my back from the moment I got drafted. Just to know I went back out there. Just to see how happy everyone seemed. How loud the stadium got. To see how many people supported me, it made me realize everybody has my back.
“When I was at Mercy I was getting letters. I have so many letters and gifts from people that I can’t even read them all. I am so thankful. It lets me know that this many people are praying for me. I had an elementary school, the whole elementary school, every single kid wrote me a get well soon letter. That is over 500 kids. All of that makes me want to do better. When I go to Penguins games, when I go to Steelers games, when people are cheering it makes me feel like I am back to myself and it allows me to feel like I am getting better, or I am feeling more normal. I know a lot of people get hurt, when they get into certain situations they get into a cave and are like, man, I’m hurt. I notice when I am hurt or dealing with something, when I am trying to be myself, be normal, it makes me feel better and want to do more. I don’t want to sit in my house all day when I know I can get out and still have a good time.”