Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who continues to make remarkable progress after a spinal contusion suffered late in the 2017 season, has been selected as the 2019 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Shazier, the 51st Halas Award winner, is the third member of the Steelers franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA, joining Rocky Bleier (1975) and John Stallworth (1985).
Other 2019 nominees for the Halas Award 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.
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 (1963) 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. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
The Halas Award is one of the two-oldest awards presented by the PFWA, along with the Dick McCann Award, presented to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage.
Shazier was originally selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In Week 13 of the 2017 season against Cincinnati, Shazier attempted to make a head-first tackle, and after the play, reached for his back and could not move his legs. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery several days after his injury, and he has refused to give up on playing again. Shazier did not play in 2018, but remained with the Steelers, assisting in scouting and coaching. He has been able to run, lift significant weights and even dance at his wedding. In one of the most inspirational and emotional scenes in recent NFL memory, Shazier walked across the stage, with the help of his now-wife Michelle, during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick.
“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 former PFWA Dick McCann Award winner who covers the Steelers for The Athletic. “It’s unbelievable how teammates talk about how he has inspired them. (Steelers VP/general manager) Kevin Colbert and (head 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.”
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 56th season in 2019, the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams daily. Bob Glauber, the national football columnist for Newsday, is the organization’s president for the 2018-20 seasons. The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Bleacher Report national columnist Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s second vice-president and ESPN.com’s Mike Sando is the PFWA secretary-treasurer. At-large members include ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, ProFootballtalk.com’s Charean Williams, Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas and USA Today’s Mike Jones. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNERS (To the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed) Year indicates when award was presented for previous season: 1969 – Joe Namath (New York Jets); 1970 – Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears); 1971 – Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints); 1972 – Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco 49ers); 1973 – Mike Tilleman (Atlanta Falcons); 1974 – Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears); 1975 – Rocky Bleier (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1976 – Billy Kilmer (Washington Redskins); 1977 – Tom DeLeone (Cleveland Browns); 1978 – Pat Fischer (Washington Redskins); 1979 – Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts); 1980 – Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys); 1981 – Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers); 1982 – Joe Klecko (New York Jets); 1983 – Eddie Lee Ivery (Green Bay Packers); 1984 – Ted Hendricks (Los Angeles Raiders); 1985 – John Stallworth (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1986 – Gary Jeter (Los Angeles Rams); 1987 – William Andrews (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1989 – Karl Nelson (New York Giants); 1990 – Tim Krumrie (Cincinnati Bengals); 1991 – Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears); 1992 – Mike Utley (Detroit Lions); 1993 – Mark Bavaro (Cleveland Browns); 1994 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1995 – Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins); 1996 – Larry Brown (Oakland Raiders); 1997 – Jim Harbaugh (Indianapolis Colts); 1998 – Mark Schlereth (Denver Broncos); 1999 – Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons); 2000 – Bryant Young (San Francisco 49ers); 2001 – Kerry Collins (New York Giants); 2002 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers); 2003 – Robert Edwards (Miami Dolphins); 2004 – Sam Mills (Carolina Panthers); 2005 – Mark Fields (Carolina Panthers); 2006 – Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts); 2007 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints); 2008 – Kevin Everett (Buffalo Bills); 2009 – Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 2010 – Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals); 2011 – Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee Titans); 2012 – Robert Kraft (New England Patriots); 2013 – Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts); 2014 – O.J. Brigance (Baltimore Ravens); 2015 – Steve Gleason (New Orleans Saints); 2016 – Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs); 2017 – David Quessenberry (Houston Texans); 2018 – Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers); 2019 – Ryan Shazier (Pittsburgh Steelers)