Why We Love Football: Ryan Shazier

Ohio State Buckeyes

Wisconsin is facing a fourth down from the Ohio State 1-yard line, trailing 14-7 with less than three minutes in the game.

Badgers running back Montee Ball has tied the NCAA record for career touchdowns earlier in the game. And all 80,000-plus at Camp Randall Stadium know what's coming.

So does Buckeye linebacker Ryan Shazier, 5-yards deep in the end zone.

At the snap, big bodies tangle with big bodies. Ball takes the handoff and leaps, extending toward the record book. But Shazier is there too, jumping, right forearm propelled toward the target.

In a YouTube video of the collision, a digitally added fireball obscures what happens next. Ball's helmet twists, his forward momentum stops, the ball arcs in the opposite direction, into the hands of a Buckeye.

Welcome to the spotlight, Shazier. As a linebacker at Ohio State — where greats Randy Gradishar, Chris Spielman, A.J. Hawk and Tom Cousineau all played — that can be daunting. The 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound junior isn't at that level yet, but just wait. He's coming. Shazier notched 115 tackles and was an honorable mention All-America selection last season. He was named the preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the media.

"Ryan Shazier was very average as we started the season and became one of the best linebackers in the country as the season concluded," says Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer.

If you think that's just coach speak, ask Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort. "He's a unique challenge as a linebacker because he's not just a big muscle guy who is going to come in and hit you," Mewhort says. "He's going to go around you, too."

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