By Scotty Mincher
The Holiday season is once again upon us and like any other year, there’s plenty to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is great for several reasons whether it’s because of the food, family, football, or the lengthy Thanksgiving day nap, I don’t think anyone is crazy if like me they feel that Thanksgiving is an underrated holiday, Especially considering that as soon as Halloween ends, It seems that Christmas has long been the commercialized king of all holidays. But no matter what your opinion of any holiday is, the best holiday will forever remain relative and debatable. However, something that isn’t debatable no matter how good things may be going is the fact that all of us face hard times in our lives that vary depending on the circumstance or conditions that we’re living with. This brings us to the meat of this story that centers on one of the things that I’m most thankful for that being sports, more specifically football and something that can make for uneasy viewing, the catastrophic injury. It’s something that all of us fight a battle against daily even if we’ve never stepped foot on a football field. None of us ever know of what type of illness, adversity, or even catastrophe that we’ll be stricken with from a day to day basis, like a lot of situations in life there’s always randomness and things that we have no control over. We can’t control what hands we’re dealt, but we can control the way we play a hand and how we deal with obstacles and heartache.
Some may believe that hardships and life, along with football go hand in hand, and in football or any other sports, adversity can either break an individual or team or strengthen it or in some cases like with former Ohio State Buckeye and still current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier it can do both. Shazier initially committed to play college ball at Florida for Urban Meyer. But rescinded his commitment after Meyer resigned as the Gators head coach. He then committed to play under Jim Tressel at Ohio State, but Tressel resigned five months later and was eventually replaced with Urban Meyer. As a true freshman, Shazier played in every regular season contest and started 3 games. His first start came near the end of the season against Penn State, where he recorded 15 tackles. He started the next two games and ended his season with 57 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
In 2012, he started all 12 regular-season games for Ohio State. Against Penn State, Shazier posted 8 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in the third quarter that he returned for the game-deciding touchdown. In a victory against Wisconsin, he had 12 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and he made a game-saving tackle on a goal-line stand on fourth and inches. He would finish 2012 leading the Big Ten with 17 tackles for a loss and place second in the league with 115 tackles. Shazier also had 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles for the season. On January 5, 2014, Shazier announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Shazier in the first round with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was the third linebacker taken in the draft behind Khalil Mack (5th) and Anthony Barr (9th). Just a few years later Shazier was hit with the most devastating misfortune of his young life. on December 4th, 2017During a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals He suffered a severe back injury after a head-on tackle. The hit left Shazier seemingly unable to move his legs. After stabilization, he was taken to the hospital and the next morning revealed that he had sustained a spinal contusion on December 7, 2017, Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery to secure the injured section of the spine and to aid in his recovery. The surgery ended his 2017 season. Despite going through some trying times, Shazier was resilient. Less than a year after his horrific injury on April 26, 2018, he walked onto the AT&T Stadium stage with his fiancée, Michelle Rodriguez, to announce the 28th pick of the NFL draft, Terrell Edmunds. To top it all off, On May 3, 2019, Shazier married Michelle Rodriguez. Seventeen months after suffering a spinal injury that doctors feared would leave him paralyzed, Shazier was able to dance at his wedding.
By this point in all the stories that I’ve worked on for YSN, Especially after I did a story on the legend that is Bernie Kosar a few weeks ago Most people probably know that I’m a die-hard Cleveland sports fan! As a reader, you might be wondering why I would include a Pittsburgh Steelers’ story for this article. Well for one-it’s Thanksgiving and I’m in a giving mood and feel that Shazier’s story is an inspirational story for all readers. Also, I think that if I say too many good things about the Browns this week I’ll put a hex on them, So that means I should say some good things about the Steelers and hit them with a reverse jinx so they lose to my Brownies this Sunday. Lastly, I feel like I can relate to Shazier’s life from the standpoint of having to overcome something debilitating.
That brings me to the end of this story. As someone who was born with Cerebral Palsy (a debilitating disease that because of its effects on my body), it has required me to use a wheelchair my whole life. I understand certain challenges and frustrations that could come with a lack of physical mobility. That being said my story is not a sad one and is far from being finished. Much like Ryan Shazier has done in spite of his physical condition I as well I’m still able to live a great life while doing what I love to do. That is either watching, reading, listening to or talking about sports. I go about my life with the mentality of always striving to find a way, not an excuse so, that I’m always able to do what I’m most passionate about. Even though my wheelchair is a part of me it doesn’t define me, and while I’m still searching for a pretty girl to ride with me through my life. The one constant that’s been there throughout is sports with my favorites being baseball, football, and basketball and the order in which I rate them is subject to change daily. But the bottom line is, sports has made living with a disability easier, It’s that not magical like Roy Hobbs and his Wonderboy bat in the Natural, I don’t know what is!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thank God for sports!