Former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier shares his miraculous story

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Charles Dickens described a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge as someone who "knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

The same can be said about former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Thanksgiving — a holiday he observes practically every day of the year.

The pinned tweet on his Twitter feed is a video announcing his retirement from football accompanied by two simple words of text: "Thank You."

When asked what he wants Ohio State fans to know about him, he says, "I just want to say thank you so much."

He's even grateful for things that most people take for granted, as the title of his soon-to-be-released book reflects.

"Walking Miracle" comes out on Nov. 30.

But Shazier considered sharing his story long before he played for the Steelers and a tackle of Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone on Dec. 14, 2017, nearly cost him the use of his legs.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier (2) spent three years at Ohio State, during which he had 317 tackles and 15 sacks before declaring for the 2014 NFL draft.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier (2) spent three years at Ohio State, during which he had 317 tackles and 15 sacks before declaring for the 2014 NFL draft.

"When I was younger, I always thought my story was worth being in a book because I grew up with something most people don't really have, and then I went through a bit of adversity just to make it to the NFL level," he said.

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Shazier was diagnosed with alopecia when he was 5 years old. The autoimmune disorder caused his hair to fall out, and he was teased by his classmates.

"That's a just challenge in itself, just looking different and people picking on you," he said. "But then, I had scoliosis when I was in high school, so there was a possibility that I would not even be able to make it to the NFL, or even make it to college football."

Obviously, scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, did not keep him from playing college ball. He spent three years at Ohio State, during which he racked up 317 tackles and 15 sacks before declaring for the 2014 NFL draft.

The Steelers took him with the No. 15 overall pick.

It's possible, though, that he got an even louder round of applause at the 2018 draft when he announced Pittsburgh's first-round selection. His gait as he stepped to the podium was stiff, it's true. But it was the first time most NFL fans had seen him walk since a simple tackle left him without feeling in his legs.

"I'm blessed to be able to walk again," Shazier said. "It would have been awesome to play football again, but I feel like God just wanted me to do something bigger with my life."

To that end, Shazier established The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation with the organization's stated mission of giving "those with spinal cord injuries and their caregivers the support, resources and funding they need to live independent and meaningful lives."

Former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has a book coming out Nov. 30 titled, "Walking Miracle."
Former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has a book coming out Nov. 30 titled, "Walking Miracle."

"I thought it was important to give back the resources that I was blessed with to overcome what I have overcome," said Shazier, "so I wanted to be able to provide that for others."

But to be able to accomplish what he did, he needed more than just the help he received. He needed the right mindset. And that's what he wants the message of his story to be.

"That's definitely something I want people to get from this book because there are so many people who go through adversity," he said. "And a lot of times people allow that adversity to define them. And it should define you, but you should allow it to define your purpose.

"You just look back at what you've been through before and say, 'Hey, I've been through this. I overcame this. I got better through this. That means I can overcome anything.' "

Among the trips former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has made to Columbus since his college career ended was a visit for the Buckeyes' 2016 game against Bowling Green.
Among the trips former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has made to Columbus since his college career ended was a visit for the Buckeyes' 2016 game against Bowling Green.

That attitude has endeared Shazier to numerous Ohioans, despite the fact that the former Steelers linebacker still calls Pittsburgh home. He returns to Columbus occasionally. He tried to attend Ohio State's game against Michigan State, but was waylaid by his 7-year-old son, Ryan Jr.'s birthday party. (He also has a 2-year-old boy, Lyon.) And on the day his book will be released he's holding two separate book signings in Columbus.

But Pennsylvania is where his foundation is based. It's where he hosts an NFL podcast and a program on Twitch. It's also where he and his dad, Vernon, run the logistics company they opened this year, Shay Trucking.

He admits wondering how much of this he would be doing if it weren't for the tackle that ended his career. However, the conclusion he's reached is that he's better off where he is now.

"My mindset since I've had my injury is just thinking about how you can continue to help people and try to allow people to get back onto their feet like I was able to," he said. "Playing football, I might have been able to pay for somebody to get back on their feet ... or I might have been able to pay for somebody's rehab, or pay for somebody's this or that. But money doesn't mean everything. Sometimes you have to be more involved and actually touch people, and I think that's what God wanted me to able to do."

He may not have needed to be haunted by the ghosts of three great medical challenges: first alopecia, then scoliosis and finally a spinal injury; but he is convinced that lent him valuable perspective.

That is just one more reason he is an incredibly thankful person.

And as Dickens observed: "May that be truly said of us, and all of us!"

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ryan Shazier talks about Ohio State football, recovery story