Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams Forged Brotherhood out of Competition, Tragedy

The Mack linebacker, playing Cover 3, sets his sights on the wide receiver catching the ball over the middle. He closes in and hits the wide receiver’s torso with his helmet. The wide receiver bounces off the tackle attempt. The Buck linebacker is there to finish him off.

The Mack linebacker stays on the ground. nfl jerseys Trainers rush out. As the medical staff tends to him, it becomes apparent he cannot move his legs. Paul Brown Stadium is hushed. The Buck linebacker takes a knee. They strap the Mack linebacker to a spinal board and carry him to a cart. As the cart drives into the tunnel, the Mack linebacker puts his hands over his eyes.

On the next play, the call comes to the Buck linebacker from the sideline, but he is too dazed to take it in and relay it to the rest of the defenders. He is overcome because there is an affection between him and the Mack linebacker—one that usually has no place on a football field.cheap nfl jerseys china

This is the story of a friendship. It’s an unlikely friendship that has transcended football, has transcended tragic circumstance.

Evidence of it trickles down Vince Williams’ left cheek as his friend Ryan Shazier’s life changes forever.

On the evening of May 8, 2014, most football fans are watching the NFL draft. Williams is sleeping. When he wakes, he has more than 20 texts and a couple of voice messages, including one from his agent. It turns out the Steelers used the 15th pick of the first round to take Shazier, an inside linebacker out of Ohio State. A player who could take Williams’ job.authentic nfl jerseys

Williams is angry. He is miserable. At an OTA the next day, his coaches try to tell him everything will be OK. The words sound hollow, and he does not want to hear them.

Williams is a sixth-round pick, and in his mind he will always be a sixth-round pick. wholesale nfl jerseys Now this hotshot, in his mind, is a threat to take his roster spot.

Shazier is an instant starter. Williams makes the team as a backup and specials teams player.

The following spring, Steelers linebacker James Harrison invites some of the defensive players to work out in Arizona. Williams says he’s in. Then he finds out Shazier is in, too.

To keep costs down, a group of players decide to rent a house. Jarvis Jones, Sean Spence, Williams and Shazier become roommates. Jones and Spence fly back home on weekends, so that often leaves Williams and Shazier alone—uncomfortably alone.nfl jerseys wholesale

Williams needs to outwork his competition. His mindset is it’s the only way he can win. He wasn’t even invited to the combine, and then he ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at his pro day. Some scouts timed Shazier at 4.36 at his pro day.

Williams is not like Shazier, and he knows it. But damn if Shazier isn’t working as hard as he is.

Neither will let up. And neither wants to allow the other to have an edge. They train twice a day, six days a week, sprinting, jumping, squatting, pushing, pulling, lunging, rowing. When the trainer tells Williams to do 10 reps, he does 13. And then Shazier does the same. When the workout is supposed to be over, Williams stays for extra sprints. With Shazier by his side.