Ohio State Football: Ryan Shazier’s inspiring playing career comes to a close

During his time at Ohio State, linebacker Ryan Shazier put together two phenomenal seasons before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and seemed destined for greatness. However, a scary injury would turn Shazier from a talented football player into an inspiration for many.

In his first season at Ohio State in 2011, Shazier faced his first challenge: playing for the worst Ohio State football team of the 2000s. Mainly playing as a back-up, but getting playing time in each of Ohio State’s 13 games played, Shazier made 58 total tackles and forced a fumble in one of their games, a 24-6 loss to Miami (FL).

The former four-star stand-out at Plantation High School in Florida fully burst onto the season in the perfectly imperfect 2012 season. To go along with 115 total tackles, Shazier made 17.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, and an interception against Penn State.

Although the 2013 Buckeyes team disappointed in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State and the Orange Bowl against Clemson (losing two straight after winning 24 games in a row), Shazier did not disappoint in his third and final season as a Buckeye.

Shazier was consistently troubling offenses, but on Nov. 23 he went off in a 42-14 drubbing of Indiana. He racked up 20(!) total tackles, 5 of which were for a loss, and one each of a sack, pass deflection, and forced fumble, his fourth of the season.

Finishing the season with 144 total tackles, 23.5 for a loss, and 7 sacks, Shazier had proved his talent to NFL scouts and showed what a menace he was to all kinds of offenses. Many drafts projected Shazier to be drafted later in the first round, but Buckeye fans were not surprised when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him No. 15 overall.

As a rookie in 2014, Shazier played in just nine games but made a quick impact with 36 total tackles. But in his second season, like 2012, Shazier took over on defense, racking up 87 total tackles (10 TFL), 3.5 sacks, 4 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles in just 12 games. He was proving himself as much of a problem for NFL offenses as he was to college schemes.

Shazier’s success continued in 2016 and ’17, disrupting the passing game (20 pass deflections, 6 interceptions total), creating havoc in the backfield (12 TFLs, 3.5 sacks), and stopping the ballcarrier in his tracks (176 total tackles) on the way to back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances.

Shazier also showed up in the playoffs in 2016, when the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the New England Patriots. As a follow-up to 20 total tackles and 2 forced fumbles in two games in 2015, Shazier’s numbers fell but impact showed, as he totaled 18 tackles and proved himself as an important piece of the Steelers’ defense.

However, on the way to his second straight Pro Bowl appearance in 2017, a head-on collision doubling as a tackle caused severe damage to Shazier’s spine, effectively ending his NFL career. Although he never got back onto the football field as a player, Shazier’s journey was not over yet.

Just five months removed from an injury that could have left him paralyzed if it went another way, Shazier walked onto the draft stage at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018, and announced the Steelers’ first-round draft pick.

Since then, Shazier has worked tirelessly to find a way back onto the field, but it seems he is ready to move on from what was a highly successful career. In a post to his Instagram Wednesday morning, Shazier officially announced his retirement from football.

Whatever is next for Ryan Shazier outside of football, there is nothing we can do as Buckeye fans but wish him all the best. As a key player and leader of a defense that returned to Silver Bullet status and set the stage for the 2014 championship team, Shazier contributed so much to Ohio State football.

Now, as he ventures into the next chapter of his life, his inspiration and toughness will remain in the hearts and minds of Buckeyes, Steelers, and football fans in general for years to come. Godspeed, Ryan!