PITTSBURGH — Ryan Shazier has regained feeling in his legs.
On Dec. 4, the Steelers’ star linebacker injured his spine severely while making a tackle in a game. In the month since, Ryan's father Vernon has become the public face of the family, leading the family and the fan base forward through faith.
Channel 11 news anchor Lisa Sylvester traveled to Florida to meet with him, go to his church, and learn about Ryan's progress.
Ryan spent several nights in a Cincinnati hospital then transferred to Pittsburgh where he underwent spinal stabilization surgery. Days later, he started rehab.
“When they flew us from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, we were there 40 minutes and the doctor walked in and said we have to do spine surgery,” Vernon Shazier said.
“I said, ‘OK, when?’ ‘Twenty minutes.’ I said, ‘I need to do something.’ I said, ‘I need to pray for you.’”
If you go to Vernon Shazier's Twitter page, you will see tweet after tweet of the most positive and inspirational messages, like “faith is like wi-fi it's invisible - but it has the power to connect you to god.”
It is that faith that is now carrying the Shazier family through this level 10 crisis.
“When your child is laying there in a situation like this, I was hoping and wishing i could switch positions with him,” Vernon Shazier said.
“When he went down, all of us went down with him.”
Vernon Shazier was in Fort Lauderdale when he received a frantic phone call from his wife, who told him their son Ryan was hurt in the Steelers game against Cincinnati. And then, minutes later, a call from Ryan himself.
“He said, “Daddy, pray for me. I can't feel my legs,’” Vernon Shazier said, overcome with emotion.
Where Ryan grew up in Florida, it was all about football; young kids dream of playing pro. But Ryan's dreams were firmly rooted in talent. By his sophomore year, it was obvious where the young linebacker was headed.
But where he came from was rooted in the church.
Vernon Shazier is a pastor at the Mount Bethel Ministries in Ft Pierce Florida. He has delivered hundreds of sermons, but he invited Channel 11 to one this past Sunday -- his first day back in the pulpit since Ryan's injury.
“I haven't slept but four times in 25 days. My mind races with different thoughts,” he preached to his congregation. “I feel like the world is on my shoulder. I feel like I have more on me than I can bear.
“But if you are wondering how am I making it? It’s because what I cannot bear, the Lord bears.”
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Ryan Shazier can now feel his legs. He's been watching the games from a suite at Heinz Field, cheering his teammates on.
“He's making progress daily,” Vernon Shazier said. “He's a long ways from the night when he was laying on the field.”
Channel 11 asked, “Is he walking? Have you seen your son walking?”
“We agreed to keep his progress private until he's ready to share where he is at,” Vernon Shazier said.
The public sharing right now, the power of prayer. The power to believe … or as Vernon likes to say, to "Shalieve."
“It's a compound version of ‘Shazier’ and ‘believe,’” he said. “It's about believing in God, believing in yourself.”
The hashtag trends on social media and it's on signs at the Steelers game. On cards and well wishes that have poured in from all around the world.
“I believe when the smoke clears and all of this is over that God is going to get glory out of it,” Vernon Shazier said.
“Do you think he'll play again?” Channel 11 asked.
“Yes, yes I do. I Shalieve. I Shalieve,” he said.
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