There was barely a dry eye in all of AT&T Stadium when Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier strode across the NFL Draft stage and announced the Steelers' first-round pick.
Shazier has made a remarkable recovery from what appeared to be a career-ending and life-altering hit late in the 2017 season, and last month's appearance was a celebration of his courage.
He still needs help walking, but it's remarkable to think how far he has come just five months after the on-field injury left him paralyzed.
His spirit has inspired millions. But Jerome Baker has known that about Shazier for years.
Baker, the Dolphins' rookie linebacker, was a 17-year-old kid on a recruiting visit to Ohio State when he witnessed Shazier's greatness firsthand. Shazier tallied an absurd 20 tackles in the Buckeyes' rout of Indiana, and Baker became a fan for life.
"It just shows how strong he is," Baker, who ended up committing to Ohio State, said of Shazier's emotional draft night. "He’s never going to quit. I talked to him a little bit at the spring game. He’s just one of those guys. He’s never going to quit, that’s for sure."
If you are getting the sense that Shazier is a role model for Baker, you're right.
Both are fast, athletic linebackers who made a bunch of plays in college. And both had questions about their size coming out of Ohio State. Baker weighed in at 229 pounds at the Combine. Shazier, four years earlier, was just eight pounds heavier.
Shazier, a Lauderdale Lakes native who played his high school ball for Plantation, proved that smaller guys can be just as effective. He made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons. If the Dolphins get anything close to that level of production out of Baker, they will be thrilled.
Besides, Baker has been doubted since his high school days.
"It’s been like that my whole life," he said. "I’m cool with it. I just know when the time is on the line, the game is on the line, I can make the play. .... [I'm told] I’m too small; but I can play ball, that’s for sure."
Baker will do as much as Dolphins coaches can trust him to this fall. He likely projects as a sub-package coverage linebacker, at least at first, but scoffs at the idea that he can't be a three-down linebacker.
"Just watch me every game," Baker said. "I just go out there and do what I do. That’s pretty much it for me. There is a lot of talking and all of that; but when it’s time to play, that’s what I do. Just play."