;rst-round dra; pick Ryan Shazier’s
story is one of athleticism and adversity, of competition and compassion,
of sel;essness and self-discovery, of
achievement — and alopecia.
“I got it when I was about 5 years
old,” Shazier explained of his experience with the condition that causes
bald spots and the disappearance of
body hair. ;e condition explained
why the 22-year-old from ;e Ohio
State University had no hair and no eyebrows in his
;rst local public appearance.
“I was probably the only little kid walking around
with a bald head,” he says. “And it was kind of tough
because kids are mean. Most kids aren’t bald-headed
or have patches in their hair when they’re 4 or 5. I
was getting picked on.
“We went to the doctor and found out what I had,
and everything was ;ne a;er that. Sometimes I wore
hats, but my mom didn’t want me to. She wanted me
to feel good about myself so I didn’t have to try to shy
away from everybody else. I told people, ‘If you’re not
going to accept me for who I am, then I don’t feel like
we can be friends.’”
More challenges for Shazier and his family
awaited a;er Shazier’s mother, Shawn, developed
“It’s kind of simmered down
now, but it was pretty bad,” Shazier
says. “It really ;ared out a lot when
she was stressing out. [Shazier] and
my little brother used to argue a lot
and stress her out. A few times my
mom had to stay in the hospital for
birthdays, Christmases, things like
“We kind of ;gured out [that
if] we were [better] to her and . . .
we controlled ourselves for her, she
would be better. We had to ;gure out how to make
sure we could keep her less stressed out so we could
spend more time with her.”
While neither his condition nor his mother’s
disease was an ideal situation, dealing with both was
life-changing for Shazier.
“It really helped me out a lot,” he says. “[For] a
lot of kids, especially growing up, things are smooth.
I feel like that really helped me out when it came to
A;er that, it was a matter of beating the odds in
Broward County, Fla.
“Down here in Florida we have almost 60 percent
of African-American males not making it out of high
school,” Shazier’s father, Vernon, told ;e Columbus
Dispatch newspaper in 2012.
In response, Vernon provided an example as a
BY MIKE PRISUTA | PHOTOS BY PITTSBURGH STEELERS / KARL ROSER
New Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier brings more than speed
and athleticism with him to Heinz Field.