Since his horrific spinal injury suffered in a Monday night game against the Bengals last December 4, the constant refrain from just about everyone wishing Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier well has been something along the lines of, "Just walk again, bro."
But Shazier, confined until recently to a wheelchair, has a different wish, and that's, "I've gotta get back, bro."
That is precisely what Shazier told teammate Roosevelt Nix, when he addressed his current health status and football aspirations while appearing on the Pro Bowl fullback's podcast which aired Tuesday.
And, Shazier, a two-time Pro Bowler in his own right, has bigger aspirations than just that annual tropical postseason destination. He also stated he wants to be an All-Pro and eventually reach the ultimate football destination, that of not-so-tropical Canton, Ohio.
I'm talking about the Pro Football Hall of Fame in case you didn't catch my allusion.
Is it crazy for a man who probably still wonders if he'll ever walk again to proclaim he will one day walk up on stage and put on that gold jacket, an action that would symbolize his football immortality?
I can't say because I'm not a doctor and I don't know which, if any, limitations apply to a person who’s suffered the kind of injury Shazier did, and then underwent the spinal stabilization surgery he did days later.
I do know Shazier was pictured on social media standing arm and arm with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger right before his release from the hospital a few weeks ago.
I also know Shazier was seen standing (admittedly, with a little assistance) at a Penguins home game just days after that.
As he told Nix during his podcast appearance, Shazier's rehabbing hard every day—two hours, five days a week, to be exact—and wowing people with his progress.
It's no secret the drive it takes for a professional football player not only to make it to that level, but to excel at that level as Shazier had done before his injury.
It shouldn't shock you, therefore, that Shazier has so much drive, so much determination, to not only walk again, but to get back to, and even surpass, the level of play he reached during the first three-plus years of his career.
The fact that I opened this article by describing Shazier as a Steelers inside linebacker is significant because it signifies my belief he’ll be back.
But would it be dangerous for Shazier to try and come back?
As his injury—one that happened on an innocent-looking tackle—clearly illustrated, football is a dangerous sport regardless of your injury history.
Obviously, Shazier's personal physician, as well as every other doctor familiar with his current condition, might say it's impossible, ludicrous or insane for him to even think about playing again (for all we know, these very words may have been spoken to Shazier by one or several medical experts).
But maybe the exact opposite sentiment has been expressed to Shazier by those aforementioned medical experts, and maybe this is what's driving the ultra-talented and freakishly athletic linebacker to be so determined to make it all the way back.
Regardless of his future, Shazier's present is a lot better than I could have imagined even a month ago.
That's because he has hope.
And if Ryan Shazier has hope, we should all have hope, hope that he gets to do exactly what he wants to do — play professional football again.