By Jim Berry

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier continues to recover from a frightening spinal injury six weeks ago.

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Shazier, a South Florida native, is getting plenty of support from his biggest cheerleader, his dad, who has been a coach and spiritual mentor.

“I wear these everyday and I will wear them until he jogs on that field again,” Vernon Shazier said of bracelets that say ‘Shalieve’ in honor of his son.

Vernon believes the bracelets capture the hope that his son will again play football.

That notion is hard to imagine considering what Ryan told his dad on the phone after being hurt in early December at Cincinnati.

“He said ‘daddy pray for me, I can’t feel my legs,’” Vernon said.

Praying is a way of life for Vernon, a minister who once served as a chaplain for the Miami Dolphins.

When his son suddenly faced the battle of his life, Vernon realized he must abide by his own sermons.

“I’ve been preaching and teaching faith for 22 years,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been feeding people. I say I’m just eating my own stew right now.”

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The feeling returned in Ryan’s legs and now, the kid who cut his teeth on football fields in Broward County is grinding through a grueling rehab in Pittsburgh.

The family won’t get into specifics about his health, but the player who still remains connected to his Steeler Nation is apparently making strides.

“Every time he experiences any time of improvement, no matter how small it is, we say ‘that’s another first down.’ ‘That’s another first down.’ The touchdown is coming. That touchdown is when he’s fully recovered and he’s able to run again.”

Vernon shuttles back and forth from South Florida to Pittsburgh every week.

Every day he sends Ryan uplifting text messages.

From the time he became a first round draft pick four years ago, Ryan has dreamed of becoming a Hall of Famer.

Despite his injury, that dream still lives.

“If he can’t play anymore than god has a plan for him,” Vernon said. “God has a plan.”

Vernon is gratified by the support his son has received, and he is praising the Steelers for keeping his son engaged with the team.

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He says that has given Ryan a big emotional lift.

Jim Berry