Steelers Shazier Comfortable In His Own Skin After Childhood Bullying

As often the case with younger children, a detriment or abnormality of one may result in being made fun of or ridiculed by others. Bullying is a commonplace in today’s society, and it’s not taken lightly either. From after school fights to stealing lunch money, it can be a challenging aspect of everyday life for kids growing up. Such was the case during the earlier years of the Steelers’ 2014 first round pick, Ryan Shazier.

Shazier has suffered from alopecia areata since he was around 5 years of age. This ailment is a certain kind of hair loss that happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks follicles of hair, resulting in round, hairless patches on the scalp. In some cases, like Shazier’s, a complete loss of both scalp and body hair occurs. According to his father, Vernon Shazier, Ryan was a victim of some harsh words growing up, being called things like “Cue ball” and “Patch.”

“A lot of people think I’m just bald,” Shazier said, according to the website “It probably bothered me when I was younger. I was only 5 years old, the only bald kid in kindergarten.”

At first, as it probably would with any child, Shazier beat himself up over it, allowing the pokes and prods by classmates get to him. Eventually, he found ways to overcome it, thanks to some words of wisdom from his parents, especially his father.

Vernon, a former preacher, has served as a chaplain for the Miami Dolphins, so his words of wisdom were taken directly to heart by Ryan.

“My message is always to act like a champion,” Vernon said, according to Zack Meisel of Northeast Ohio Media Group. As Shazier grew older, the taunts became less and less, coinciding with his rapid success on the football field. According to him, he thinks it had to do with an intimidation factor, and his reputation as a heavy hitter on the gridiron.

“From Little League and up to high school, everybody said I was pretty explosive and had a really good hips as a tackler,” Shazier said, according to “Once you’re known as a big hitter, you’re always a known as a big hitter, so people kind of tense up when they see you.”

Explosive was perhaps the best adjective most draft analysts attached to Shazier coming out of Ohio State in the 2014 NFL Draft, and after being labeled “old” and “slow” by analysts like Warren Sapp, Shazier seemed to fit the bill in terms of an injection of youth and out-of-this-world athleticism into Pittsburgh’s defense.

Although his promising rookie year was hampered by injuries, it presents the challenge to one-up the critics who said he’s too light to play inside linebacker, he’s another combine “workout warrior”, etc. It’s a challenge he can easily overcome, much like the bullying he experienced growing up, and if Shazier can avoid the injury bug, he has all the makings for a future star. I’ll even go out on a limb and say perhaps the next great linebacker in a long line of them to don the black and gold. And as far as his alopecia goes, it’s something he actually embraces now.

“I feel like it’s my signature now,” he said, according to reporter Scott Brown. “Having a bald head actually saves me a lot of money.”

  • superfan

    I bet those bullies wouldn’t have much to say to him now.

  • pittfan

    This guy flashed greatness during his time on the field. I can’t wait to o see the bulked version on the field this year. I really think this line backing group is growing into something special

  • mem359

    Find a way to have him do commercials with Troy Polamalu.

  • KansasSteeler

    Can we please cease and desist from using any reference to Warren Sapp as an influential NFL analyst?

  • JohnB

    He reminds me of the guy from Arrested Development, Stan Sitwell. Eyebrows always falling off.

  • danny

    agree!! But only when he establishes himself as a legit player!

  • steeltown

    The size thing is so overstated, in correlation Timmons was lighter than Shazier coming out of college and was actually listed at 230lb while at FSU

    Hoping for a big year from Shazier

  • I never noticed that he didn’t have eyebrows. Oh well, I don’t care as long as Shazier is making plays on the field!

  • mem359

    Right, he hasn’t earned it yet.
    I guess I was thinking of a PSA commercial, where Troy and Ryan say that having a different hairstyle (than “normal”) is all right.

  • baz

    Nice teeth

  • steelster

    At least it’s growing.

  • philb80

    I remeber when we drafted him and i thought somethin looked a little weird about his face, now i finally know.. No eyebrows. I wouldnt mind if my half-head of hair would stop growing so i wouldnt have to shave it anymore.

  • srdan

    ha clever

  • srdan

    I don’t like the term bullies. “Bullying” is nothing new. It has been going on since mankind was around. But we are wussifying our society. Instead of allowing kids to figure out small disagreements, adults step in and label it bullying. When I was going to school, you handled school issues yoruself. When things got bad, teachers and counselors step in. At that age hormones are bumping and mean things are said, and heard but you have to learn how to take comments good and bad at some point in life. When you are younger it is easier. I got my butt whooped a few times, I dished out a few. I’m fine today and am confident that i can be knocked down and get back up, literally and figuratively.

    Bud i don’t have an answer for cyberbullying. I had a pentium 286 in highschool.

  • AndyR34

    Um-m-m…you’re pretty young! I had an abacus! LOL!

  • srdan

    haha actually i learned how to add and subtract on one too.

  • Heather Danis

    Agreed. Sapp is the last person I care to hear rant about or analyze Steelers players, let alone any other team’s. Most of the time he gets his facts wrong, gets names wrong and his opinions are skewed to his own personal viewpoint rather than a football point. He is so anti-Steelers that I can’t even believe they let him speak about the team. Every year it’s the same crappy, negative answers on our players and our team. He’s worse than Phil Simms when broadcasting our games. Every time we make a mistake, it’s like there’s been a long historical trend there; every time we do something good, it won’t last and the other team merely had a lapse. He’s a jinx and I’m constantly heard telling him to just shut up

  • Sean Davis

    There’s only one downside to this disease…no eyebrows. Other than that I’m in…no shaving, haircuts and not having to worry about manscaping. Sounds like a plan

  • Lizard72

    I was thinking the same thing. Former analyst at the very least.

  • Zarbor

    That would be great…

  • Zarbor

    Only issue with Ryan, can he get off them blocks? You can’t grab what you can’t see so hopefully he will use his speed to make big time plays. I have big expectations for him this season. He should be the best player on that side of the ball….period.

  • LucasY59

    I’m just glad I don’t have to hear from Sapp anymore, so anything they use of his previous comments I take as a joke or dig on him

  • LucasY59

    I think the Baldness makes him look even faster

  • Steve

    When Chris Collinsworth first became a broadcaster he always had negative remarks about the Steelers, but they have been less over the years.

  • Yeah! When he went up to the podium, I was like, “There’s something different about this guy, and it’s not his bald head…”

  • blackandgoldBullion

    He’s lucky in a way. I’ve had decades of having to cut and trim hair in places only an acrobat could reach. My poor wife has to practically take the sheers to me otherwise I may resemble a bear. And smell like one too.

    Shaz does look ripped this year and that should help him shed blocks? He’s going to be a good one.

  • Paddy

    Sapp was old and slow getting away from the cops. What a goof!

  • Axe Skot

    A thousand affirmatives!