PITTSBURGH — More than 1,000 days after suffering a severe spinal cord injury that initially left him unable to walk, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is officially retiring from football.
Shazier, 28, made the announcement in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning.
“When I was 5 years old, I made the greatest discovery of my life,” Shazier said in the Twitter video. “I discovered the game that I love — the game of football. Ever since then, I’ve given my life to the game. I love everything about it …
“Football gave me everything I ever wanted and more. It taught me about hard work, dedication, teamwork. It took me to college and the NFL. It made me money and gave me a life most people could only dream about. I’m here today to make sure the world knows how much I still love football, how grateful I am for everything football gave me. And I’m here to let the world know that today I am officially retiring from the game I love so much.”
The Steelers placed Shazier, their first-round pick in 2014, on the reserve/retired list earlier this season in an administrative move that kept him a member of the organization.
“Never once have you ever said, ‘Why me?'” general manager Kevin Colbert told Shazier during a video news conference Wednesday. “And that gives us the strength and gives others the strength to know that any challenge you can overcome and you have overcome.
“… I just want you to know, you can retire from the game of football, but you’re never going to retire from being a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
In nearly four seasons with the team, Shazier was a two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker, finishing his career as a full-time starter in his final three seasons, with seven interceptions, seven forced fumbles, seven sacks and 299 tackles.
Shazier was rushed to a University of Cincinnati hospital on Dec. 4, 2017, after a tackle attempt against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football left him struggling to move. He went headfirst into rookie Josh Malone and immediately collapsed. Shazier grabbed his back as he rolled onto his side, unable to move his legs.
He underwent spinal stabilization surgery a few days later, and he didn’t regain movement in his legs until the following February.
“To lose the game in a way I never envisioned has not been easy,” Shazier said in his video. “When you play the game of football the way I did, you convince yourself you’re Superman, that nothing can stop you. But then the moment I got hurt, I stopped being Superman. That was difficult to make sense.”
While speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Shazier said he’s “constantly getting better” and that he holds no grudges against the game.
“Some people fall in love with people [and] you get mad at them,” Shazier said. “But you know, you always make up — and that’s how I feel about the game of football.”
After months of rehab, Shazier walked across the stage with the help of his then-fiancée (and now wife), Michelle, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick of the 2018 draft.
— NFL (@NFL) April 27, 2018
He recently hit another milestone when one of his young sons interrupted his in-home rehab.
“He tried to run away from me and I actually tackled him as if I was playing a football game,” Shazier said with a laugh. “I think I tackled him a little too hard, but it was kind of funny. I thought it was kind of an achievement that I actually was able to tackle my son, even though he’s not an NFL running back.”
Though the tackle against the Bengals violently ended his football career and cost him so much, Shazier said he wouldn’t prevent his two sons from playing the sport if they showed interest.
“If my boys love it enough and they want to play, I will let them play,” he said. “I don’t feel like football is the reason I got hurt. I feel like it [was] more of myself why I got hurt. I probably should have did things a little safer. But at the end of the day, it was a routine tackle. Everybody … has seen me make this tackle thousands of times. I don’t really have anger for the game of football.”
Shazier hasn’t been around the team during training camp this year because of COVID-19 protocols concerning the number of personnel with access to the team, but he continues to focus on his daily rehab, and he’s taking one final online class to complete his undergraduate degree in psychology at Ohio State.
He’s also going to start contributing to a weekly NFL podcast with The Ringer to give a player’s perspective on the NFL.
“I’m excited to be able to talk about that — how I actually feel about something,” Shazier said. “I know I won’t have to hold back as much. I think that’s kind of cool. When it comes to the world, I’m going to continue to inspire people.”
Shazier isn’t sure whether his next steps include a return to the football field as a coach.
“It’s kind of tough not being able to be around the team as much, just help the young guys or be around the guys that I worked around before,” Shazier said last week. “It’s really tough. I’m constantly putting one foot in front of the other, trying to learn different things, trying to figure out my next step, trying to take it one day at a time.”
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