Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has won the 2019 George Halas Award given by the Professional Football Writers of America. Shazier, the 51st Halas Award winner, is the third Steeler to receive the honor, joining Rocky Bleier (1975) and John Stallworth (1985). He is making progress from a spinal contusion suffered in the 2017 season while making a tackle and has not played since.
The Halas Award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter.
"In my 35 years covering the Steelers, I've seen many players overcome much adversity, but never have I seen such determination by a player to overcome what Ryan has and to reach a point, physically and mentally, where he is,'' said Ed Bouchette, a PFWA voter. "It's unbelievable how teammates talk about how he has inspired them. (Steelers VP/general manager) Kevin Colbert and (coach) Mike Tomlin have spoken many times about what he has meant to the organization, the front office and the players. He has been one big inspiration.
"He's going to all the meetings, watching film, breaking down opponents, going in with the scouts to watch stuff, looking at prospects at draft time, and he's on the field every day. He's made remarkable recovery from an injury where many of us believed he wouldn't be able to.
"He's an inspiration to fans as well. His first public appearance was at a Steelers home game. They showed him on the Jumbotron, and the ovation was incredible. Same thing at a Penguins game. At the NFL draft, he walked without help publicly for the first time. He's been a tremendous inspiration all the way around."
Shazier was drafted by the Steelers in the first round in 2014. In Week 13 of the 2017 season against Cincinnati, Shazier attempted a head-first tackle, and after the play could not move his legs. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery several days after his injury.
He has refused to give up on playing again.
Other 2019 nominees were Steelers running back James Conner; New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman; recently retired Houston Texans safety Andre Hal; and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.