The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t technically employ Ryan Shazier anymore. After his retirement before the 2020 regular season, he and the Steelers are officially two separate entities. However, don’t think Shazier isn’t still a big part of the Steelers, and the Steelers aren’t a big part of Shazier.
The former first round draft pick has put football behind him, and started his own foundation. The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation was started to help those who are dealing with spinal chord injuries, like Shazier himself had to do in 2017 after he injured his back on a Monday night game in Cincinnati.
What are the main goals of his foundation? Shazier outlines those:
“My foundation is about people dealing with spinal cord issues. I dealt with the issue myself. I understand how much support and care you need for those with spinal cord issues,” said Shazier. “Sometimes people don’t get the right amount of care or support or rehab they need. I started this to give them more support, the caregivers more support and help them get more rehab. You always have to do some kind of rehab when injured. For spinal cord, usually you only get 30 sessions of rehab. That’s like trying to teach your kid to walk again in 30 sessions. That is almost impossible.
“We are just trying to give people more rehab, opportunities, give people back a meaningful lifestyle. Everyone is not going to walk again but give them the opportunity to get back to some type of independence. That is what my foundation is about, giving people back independence, letting them do things on their own and just give them the opportunity to have support. A lot of time with spinal cord issues that is the end of the road for them. I wanted to give them an opportunity and let them know they aren’t alone.”
To help Shazier’s foundation, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster donated $5,000 of his own money to help get Shazier some needed equipment and funds for his ongoing efforts. As a sign of good faith, the Pittsburgh Steelers matched Smith-Schuster’s offer, totaling $10,000 headed to the Shazier foundation.
“I am truly thankful for this,” said Shazier. “It means a lot. It lets you know the relationships you built while playing with guys, guys who are from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, really mean something. You have relationships that go beyond football.
“This doesn’t just mean a lot to mean personally, though. It means a lot because it’s going to help so many people who are going through the same thing I have gone through. JuJu has firsthand experience seeing what I have gone through when we played together. It’s amazing to have someone like that, someone who was a teammate not just support me, but support others.
“It’s great to see the young guys buy in to the social justice program, for them to see how important it is to help their community. To have the young guys understand it’s as important as the older guys do is huge. They see how big the fight we are trying to help out with is. It’s good to see those guys help out the same way the guys who have helped out for a while have been doing.”
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