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Steelers

Steelers' Ryan Shazier vows return to NFL, sees Hall of Fame in future

Joe Rutter
| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 10:18 p.m.
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier reacts on the scoreboard at Heinz Field during the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Jaguars Sunday, Jan. 14, 2017.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier reacts on the scoreboard at Heinz Field during the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Jaguars Sunday, Jan. 14, 2017.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier receives a standing ovation during a hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.
Kevin Gorman | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier receives a standing ovation during a hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, making his first public comments since sustaining a spinal cord injury Dec. 4, vows to resume playing football. To boot, he also has a goal of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Shazier was a guest Tuesday on a podcast hosted by Steelers teammate Roosevelt Nix, and he discussed his recovery and his goals during and after his football career in a chat that lasted 28 minutes.

"I'm still reaching for the Hall of Fame," Shazier said. "I really feel like I'm the best linebacker ever. I have to get back out there so everybody can see it."

The injury to Shazier's spinal cord put his football future in jeopardy. He spent two months in the hospital until his release about three weeks ago. He has been working out daily at the Steelers practice facility and rehabilitating his injury on an outpatient basis.

Shazier said he rehabs two hours a day for five days a week with the goal of resuming his NFL career.

"I gotta get back," he said. "Right now I'm reading a book, and it's saying to trust the process. I'm really trusting the process. I know the end goal. I'm taking every step of the way, but the effort I'm giving for football is 1,000. The therapists are like, 'This is crazy.' They said they are happy to be working with an athlete because they've never seen someone work so hard.

"They say the progression they see (from other patients) week to week, they see from me day to day."

Shazier was injured making a tackle in the first quarter of the Steelers' game in Cincinnati. He spent the night in a Cincinnati hospital before being transported to Pittsburgh, where he underwent spinal stabilization surgery.

Shazier said he underestimated his injury when it first happened.

"From the moment I got hurt, people were like, 'I don't know about football,' " Shazier said. "I knew I (was going) to bounce back. I didn't even think about not playing football. The thing that is so crazy about it, I didn't even know how bad I was hurt.

"I knew I was hurt bad, but I was like, 'I'm going to be straight for Christmas. I'm going to go to the Christmas game (in Houston).' "

Shazier was permitted to attend the Steelers' game Dec. 17 against the New England Patriots, which he viewed from a private suite. He said a doctor and nurse were on hand to monitor his condition.

"I had to leave early because I couldn't be out that long," Shazier said.

When Shazier was released from the hospital, he had a picture taken with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They stood side by side. Then, Shazier was shown attending a Penguins game, and he drew a standing ovation from the crowd when he lifted himself out of his wheelchair and stood to wave to the fans.

"I really wanted to do that because I felt like everyone needed to see that," Shazier said. "Everybody had seen the picture (with Ben), but the picture is totally different. You can (fake) a picture, but you can't (fake) a video. … The thing is, in the picture, people thought Ben was holding me up. He was barely supporting me."

Shazier said he is thankful for the thoughts and prayers he has received from fans.

"It feels good just to know so many people appreciate me," he said. "People really love me and support me."

As for eventually making it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Shazier said it is a dream he has had since he started playing the sport.

"I really feel like I got the ability," he said. "Every game, people try to get a pick. My stat line for every game, I try to get 12 tackles, a pick, forced fumble and touchdown."

Shazier was named to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year, although he fell short of attaining All-Pro status. He also said he was "salty" Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award instead of him.

After his playing days conclude, Shazier envisions himself being an entrepreneur like former NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

"I'd like to be a GM or run a team or be an owner," he said. "My goal is to be a president of a corporation."

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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