Injuries are unfortunately a part of football. Sometimes we see injuries from hard contact because players have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger over the years. Other times contact isn’t needed for an injury to occur. Whether an injury happens from contact or not, it doesn’t make it any less devastating for an injured player, especially if it ends up being an injury that sidelines a player for an extended amount of time.
On Sunday afternoon, news broke that former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins was feared to have suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the first half against the Houston Texans. The injury speculation was later confirmed, and Dobbins will miss the rest of the 2023 NFL season, which will mark the second time in three seasons that he has suffered a significant injury. Gone is the hope that Dobbins could earn a lucrative second contract in the NFL since now he is going to be deemed as an injury risk.
As much as it hurts to think back on this topic, today we are looking at former Ohio State players who have suffered injuries in the NFL. We want to know which injury or series of injuries that a Buckeye has suffered at the professional level that hit you the hardest. Maybe your favorite NFL team drafted a Buckeye and that player suffered an injury, derailing what they could have been. Or it could be a player who just had some terrible injury luck in the league.
Today’s question: What former Ohio State player suffered an injury in the NFL that hit you hardest?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Michael Thomas
I still find it wild that Urban Meyer had Michael Thomas at wide receiver and it felt like he didn’t know how to use the future NFL star. Not that it hurt the Buckeyes since they went on to win the 2014 national title with Thomas starting, it just felt like the nephew of Keyshawn Johnson should have caught more than 110 passes in 2014 and 2015 before moving on to the NFL. Had Thomas been able to showcase his skills a little more, he likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Even though he wasn’t a first-rounder, Thomas did land in a perfect situation in New Orleans, as he had future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees throwing him the football. Thomas caught 92 balls in his rookie season and would catch at least 100 passes in each of the next three seasons. The 2019 season for Thomas was legendary. Not only did he sign a 5-year, $100 million contract prior to the season, he caught an NFL record 149 passes, and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Since the end of the 2019 season, Thomas has played in 11 games, catching 61 passes. The injury issues started in the first week of the 2020 season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain and snowballed from there. Thomas missed the whole 2021 season and only played in the first three games of the 2022 season. Had Thomas not missed so much time due to his ankle injuries, it would have been interesting to see what kind of stats he could have amassed, and where he would sit on the NFL’s all-time stat lists when his career comes to a close.
Matt’s answer: Ryan Shazier
I think for many Buckeye fans, the injury that jumps to mind is that of former Ohio State and Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier. In nearly four full seasons as an NFL player, Shazier made two Pro Bowls and wracked up 299 tackles, before his career was tragically cut short when Pittsburgh was playing the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 4. 2017. Following a brutal head-on tackle, Shazier was left motionless on the turf.
In the coming days, he underwent spinal stabilization surgery and after two seasons of being on Pittsburgh’s Physically Unable to Perform list, he retired in 2020.
There are all of the on-field reasons that you can be disappointed by the end of Shazier’s career. He was one of the best linebackers in the game and was selected as a top-50 player in the NFL for the 2018 season. He seemed to be in the perfect franchise for his style of play and appeared to be well on his way to a long and successful NFL career.
But the impact from the football side of Shazier’s injury pales in comparison to the real-life effects. At the time of his injury, Buckeye fans, myself included, were rightly terrified about what this meant for Ryan’s life moving forward. Initially unable to move his legs, the prognosis was terrifying for fans who had come to love Shazier as not only a menacing football player but also a fun, loveable addition to whichever team he was on.
To see any athlete at the peak of their powers rendered motionless on the field is horrible. Knowing that in a moment, someone who trained and sacrificed and thrived could have it all taken away is difficult enough, but when it is an athlete that you have grown to care about from afar, as both a player and a person, it hits differently. Ryan Shazier was — and still is — a member of our Buckeye family, and while that sounds strange and borderline unhealthily parasocial, it’s true.
Not all Buckeyes become beloved, but those that do are so fully embraced by the fandom that we feel joy at their successes and pain for their failures. But Shazier’s injury was something so much more emotional than a thrown interception in the Super Bowl or a missed three-pointer in the NBA Finals.
That is why it has been so rewarding and heartening to see Shazier’s slow, but steady, rehabilitation from his appearance at the 2018 NFL Draft to his serving as an honorary captain at Ohio State’s Spring Game, just five months after the injury.
Witnessing horrible injuries like Ryan Shazier’s can shake you to your core, I know it did mine. Fortunately, through the skill of his medical professionals and Ryan’s strength of body and spirit, not only has he had a tremendous recovery, but he is also doing what he can to help others who have been through experiences similar to his.
I am proud to consider myself a Ryan Shazier fan, not only for what he did on the field before his injury but also for what he has done off of it after.
Steel City Greats was developed through my personal experience of dealing with the severe pain of my spinal cord injury, followed by the intense rehab that went along with it.— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) August 28, 2023
Life changing is an understatement. https://t.co/YnHcaWgvgj pic.twitter.com/mIrsuLDjZg