Only the NFL can forge a wonderful moment out of a horrible memory.
One of the most special scenes of the entire sports year came when injured Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier walked out onto the stage.
There was an emotional gasp when it happened, followed by a sustained ovation from the orchestra pit on the floor to the rafters near the roof. It was unforgettable and surely left viewers around the country in tears.
There was real fear that Shazier would never stand or even walk again after a headlong tackle last December left him motionless on the turf in a brutal Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was one of the NFL’s worst fears come true: a star player and community leader losing his career and maybe his mobility in a split-second on the field. It led to real debate over the violence of the game.
And yet there he was, holding the hand of his fiancée, flashing a smile that has become iconic in Pittsburgh and beyond. The moment he arrived at the podium was a testament to the man’s faith and will. It’s people like Shazier who keep football going. It’s the spirit he showed that inspires fans of all ages. But it’s also a nation’s eagerness to forget the fear that happens with every big hit to the head. Instead of a reminder of all that can go wrong in the sport, Shazier served as a reminder of what’s right.