Saying he ‘still loves football’ despite serious injury, Steelers’ Ryan Shazier officially retires

Ryan Shazier had to stop to compose himself while recording a prepared statement released Wednesday. Later in the day, he told his wife hearing from coach Mike Tomlin and Vince Williams, likewise, almost made him cry. Kevin Colbert wasn’t as adept at holding in his emotions, choking up while addressing Shazier.

But through what was a highly emotional day for Shazier in announcing his retirement from the NFL, the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker pushed forward with the same upbeat attitude he displayed while rehabbing from a serious spinal injury over the past 33 months.

“I never expected it to end so soon, and I didn’t think I’d be saying I was going to retire at 28 years old,” Shazier said during a video conference call. “But at the end of the day, God has a plan for us, and I’m excited about what’s next.”

What is next for Shazier is a media gig with The Ringer, for which he will serve as an NFL analyst and co-host a weekly podcast. Shazier, who vowed he would remain living in Pittsburgh, also said he will explore other business ventures while also devoting more resources to his foundation.

“I just want to give more to people who are going through the same situation as myself,” Shazier said when speaking of the the Shalieve Fight Foundation.

Shazier has been through countless hours of rehab since undergoing spinal stabilization surgery. That came two days after he was was paralyzed temporarily, lying on the turf at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium after what appeared to be a routine tackle during a December 2017 game.

Told he might never walk again, Shazier’s first public appearance doing so came when he announced the Steelers’ first-round pick during the 2018 draft. Workouts posted to social media in ensuing months and years showed even more physical progress, and any detectable limp in his stride became increasingly less noticeable as time passed.

Shazier publicly professed a desire to resume his playing career. That ended Wednesday, three days after he turned 28.

“I just felt it was time for me to start transitioning, to start focusing on my family more and probably the next steps in my life,” Shazier said. “It was tough for me. … We tried to hold on as long as possible. My rehab is continuing to still get better, but I just feel that God had another plan for me.”

Shazier also is stepping away from an inside role with the team for which he played four seasons and earned two Pro Bowl berths.

Among the unofficial duties he performed for the Steelers over the prior two seasons — while collecting a players’ salary — were regularly taking part in team and positional meetings, providing input to coaches and mentoring younger players.

Shazier said the experience left him open to pursuing coaching in the future.

The teammate Shazier was closest to, fellow inside linebacker Williams, told Shazier he was “always a much better person than you were a football player. … I’m just so excited about watching you attack everything else the way I got to see you attack football – with just that lion’s aggression.”

While addressing Shazier, Tomlin reminisced about the many times he watched Shazier and Williams work together on their own, admiring their dedication to their craft.

“The passion that he displayed day-to-day, the professionalism, the love that he has and the respect that he displayed for the game was evident in terms of how he went about his daily routine,” Tomlin said of Shazier. “A quality player — an unbelievable player — yes. A quality man and unbelievable man, also.”

The Steelers’ longtime general manager who drafted Shazier No. 15 overall in 2014, Colbert told Shazier how he admired his mindset from the time of the injury onward.

“Never once have you ever said, ‘Why me?’ ” Colbert said. “That gives us great security moving forward knowing that whatever that next step is, you’re going to be successful.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Sports | Steelers/NFL

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