In his first press conference at the Pittsburgh Steelers' facility since suffering a spinal injury six months ago, former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier told reporters that he still has his sights set on returning to play football again.
"My dream is to come back and play football again," Shazier said Wednesday. "I have that in the back of my mind every single time I go to rehab, and I just try to stay positive every single day, so I'm just trying to do everything I can to get back."
While Shazier still has a long way to go in his recovery as he looks to regain full mobility in his body, he was able to walk to the podium with a cane and stand without assistance for his press conference on Wednesday.
Ryan Shazier walks to the podium pic.twitter.com/VOucpsafwH— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) June 6, 2018
Shazier said his doctors have not given him a timetable for when he might be able to make a full recovery, but that they have encouraged him to "take it day by day" and that he has exceeded doctors' expectations thus far. He said the next milestone he is looking toward in his recovery is being able to walk under his own power without a cane or any assistance.
Yet even though his recovery from injury has been and will likely continue to be a lengthy process, Shazier remains undeterred in his goal to return to the sport.
"I've played this game since I was four years old, I've loved the game since I was four years old, and just 'cause I got hurt don't mean I'm going to stop loving the game of football," Shazier said.
While returning to the field could put Shazier at risk for being injured again – and receiving clearance from doctors to play again is just one of the hurdles he'll have to clear to return – he says isn't scared of that possibility, though he acknowledged he might have to learn how to play the game differently.
"I just have to probably play a little safer. I just have to probably pick my head up or something," Shazier said. "But other than that, I'm honestly, I'm fine with whatever outcome comes with it. I'm just trusting the Lord, and I feel like if he gives me the opportunity to play it again, I'm going to go out there and give it everything I have."
“I've played this game since I was four years old, I've loved the game since I was four years old, and just 'cause I got hurt don't mean I'm going to stop loving the game of football.”– Ryan Shazier
Shazier said he has learned to appreciate every step of the process along the way in his recovery, from walking across the stage at the NFL draft to even meeting with the media on Wednesday, now that he knows how quickly it can all go away.
"When I was in rehab, the first few steps I took, I'm not going to even lie: Me and my family were crying," Shazier said. "Sometimes I look back at my videos and I still cry, but it's all tears of joy ... Just to go back and see where you came from, and where people thought you would be, to where you are now and where I plan on being, it really makes me appreciate every moment, every single step I take, every time I'm here with these guys, every time somebody comes and talks to me."
Shazier has already been ruled out for the 2018 season, his final season under his current contract with the Steelers, but plans to remain around the team all season, helping out with scouting and coaching in addition to working on his individual recovery.
Shazier, who played for Ohio State from 2011-13 and earned first-team All-American honors in his final season as a Buckeye, had emerged as one of the NFL's best linebackers before his injury. A Pro Bowl selection in both 2016 and 2017, Shazier was recently ranked by his peers as the 47th-best player in the NFL. He started 41 games and recorded 299 total tackles, seven interceptions, seven sacks and seven forced fumbles in his first four NFL seasons since being selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.