While Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins and Demario McCall were among the current Ohio State players who brought the fans to their feet with big plays in Saturday’s spring game, it was a former Ohio State football player who drew the biggest ovation of the day in Ohio Stadium.
During a break in the action in the first quarter of Saturday’s spring game, Ohio State honored its two honorary coaches for the game – which included Malcolm Jenkins of the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, but also included Ryan Shazier, who was back at Ohio State for the first time since undergoing spinal stabilization surgery a little over four months ago.
As Shazier stood up out of his golf cart and waved his arms to the crowd, nearly every fan in attendance climbed up out of their seats, too, to salute the Buckeye great.
In an interview before Saturday’s game in the Shoe, Shazier said it "really meant a lot" to be back inside Ohio Stadium, and that he was honored when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer – who he played for in his final two seasons as a Buckeye, and still keeps in touch with regularly – approached him with the opportunity to be an honorary spring game coach.
"It definitely brings back a lot of memories, because my first game ever in this stadium was my spring game (in 2011)," Shazier said. "So it really meant a lot just to be back here."
Since suffering a spinal injury while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Dec. 4 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Shazier says he has received "outstanding support" from the Ohio State community.
"I still get letters to this day, from the day I got hurt. It’s almost so much mail, I can’t even read it all. I’m just thankful for everybody, all the support that they’re giving me, and all the prayers," Shazier said. "I go on the Buckeye Cruise (for Cancer) every year, and they have so much support for me. And I have my Shalieve shirts, and a lot of Steelers fans and Buckeye fans were the main ones who really were the ones that supported me with that. And I just want to say thank you for everybody, because I wouldn’t be able to be doing so well if it wasn’t for all the support."
Meyer wanted Saturday to be an opportunity for Shazier to continue receiving that support.
"One of my favorite players of all-time, Ryan Shazier, going through a little bit of a tough time but he can share it with people he cares deeply about, and that’s Buckeye Nation, and his old teammates and his old coaches," Meyer said after the game.
Though Shazier told reporters that he would not discuss the specifics of his injury on Saturday, the progress he has made in his recovery was evident in his ability to stand under his own power, which he not only did during the midfield recognition, but also while speaking to the Buckeyes before Saturday’s game.
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Shazier did say he is "feeling a lot better" than he did when he suffered the injury four months ago.
"Every day I’m getting better," Shazier said. "So I’m just thanking the Lord and just talking to him and just thanking everybody that’s praying for me."