What legacy has Ryan Shazier left behind?

Ryan Shazier is one of the most athletic inside linebackers in NFL history.

During the Week 13 matchup vs the Cincinnati Bengals, Shazier suffered a frightening spinal injury during a botched tackle attempt. Those who were present during his devastating injury witnessed an insane talent go down, and possibly never get back up. He was carted off the field, and many wondered if he would even be able to walk in the future.

About 5 months later, Shazier walks across the stage of the 2018 NFL Draft to announce the teams’ 1st round pick. Though the walk looked immensely painful, it was inspirational and threw a positive light on to the once hopeless situation. Suddenly things were looking up. Many considered Shazier’s once lofty dream to “come back and play” to be possible after all. Ryan Shazier is on the Injured Reserve for this season, but the nation is hoping to see the young player to step on the field once again.

The injury brought the league together. Friends and foes alike gathered to throw up prayers for the linebacker. Players like Browns’ Duke Johnson, Ravens’ Tony Jefferson, and the Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey showed love for Shazier, even though the teams they play for have strained relationships. This showed to the league and country that football is more than a sport. It creates a bond like nothing else.

Even assuming that Shazier doesn’t return, he has left a legacy behind for the rest of the world. In terms of football, Ryan Shazier has shown young kids that there is glory to playing on defense, at linebacker. Young kids grow up wanting to be QBs and WRs, as they seem to get all the glory. But Shazier was different. He was athletic, speedy and had good hands, common traits of a wide receiver. But he loved playing where he played, at inside linebacker. He showed that talented players like himself don’t always have to pursue playing offense, and should take a look at defense as well. Suddenly, the athletic, speedy inside linebacker became a completely new mold for the position. Not only was it up and coming, this new mold was often looked at as superior. Players like Dion Jones, Jarrad Davis, Tremaine Edmunds, and Fred Warner began drawing considerably more attention. Warner, who only a few years ago could have been a late round pick, went in the early 3rd round. Even with Warner’s weak combine performance, the agile linebacker gathered interest from NFL teams due to his athleticism and coverage ability. Shazier, almost single-handedly, created a new position. But he did not leave his legacy there.

The “QB of the Steelers defense” has already shown that an injury, even life-changing one’s like his, should not stop one from being hopeful and optimistic. First, he fought with Alopecia. He never let that get him down, and followed up on his dreams to become an NFL player. And then, this injury. Many have doubted a return, but Shazier has not given up. Maybe he never plays again, but the fact that he is walking is a miracle in and of itself. Along with that, his never-ending positivity is unexpected and extraordinary. Such an injury would cause many players to retire and never step on the field ever again. Once again the young linebacker proves to be strong-willed and determined, making it impossible not to root for him and his journey.

In the end, Ryan Shazier is on a mission. To play football once again. The people of America and football fans all over the fan are rooting for him. At this point, all we can do is hope and pray. And be glad that even if he never returns, Shazier can be content with the legacy he has left behind for the league and the country.  

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