A four-star outside linebacker prospect from Plantation, Fla., Shazier had issued a verbal commitment to Florida in late June and looked to have his recruitment all wrapped up. But somewhere down inside, Shazier knew something was not right.
"Their players were cool and everything, but the environment and the atmosphere weren't right for me," Shazier said Feb. 2 on National Signing Day. "I just felt like, ‘I don't want to go here. My heart's not here.' I was just going there for my mother because she wanted me to stay close."
As he tried to express that sentiment to his mother, the Gators offered him an out: head coach Urban Meyer opted to step down from his post. Seizing upon the opportunity, Shazier re-opened his recruitment and scheduled official visits to Ohio State and LSU.
With a trip on tap to Baton Rouge during the weekend of Dec. 10, Shazier and his mother finally settled their differences about his college home.
"Before my visit to LSU my mom called me," he said. "We had gotten into an argument because she didn't want me to leave Florida. She had called me the next day and was like, ‘Wherever you go, I'm going to be happy. Just make the best decision for you because wherever you go, I'm going to support you.' "
It was as if a weight had been lifted from Shazier's shoulders.
"That was a sigh of relief because I knew there was no more pressure on me," he said. "I wasn't going somewhere just because my mom wanted me to go there or somebody else wanted me to go there. I was going there because I really wanted to go there."
The difference in Shazier was noticeable, according to fellow Plantation product and current Buckeye Jeremy Cash.
"He seemed much happier once he realized that his mom was OK with somewhat letting go of the restraints and allowing him to find his own destiny," Cash said.
His mother had her reasons for wanting her son to play closer to home. According to Shazier, her hope was to see all of his games in person. Now, he joked, they are planning to make sure they get the Big Ten Network so she can watch him on the field in Columbus.
But once his mother gave her blessing, Shazier still had to pick a school – and soon. The linebacker was set to enroll in winter courses at the university of his choosing and time was of the essence.
After visiting the Tigers, Shazier checked out the Buckeyes during a mid-week visit that lasted from Dec. 15-17. He arrived home on the 17th and had to make a final decision before the day was up so he could begin the necessary paperwork preparations.
Looking back, Shazier said his head was spinning as he attempted to process it all.
"That was probably one of the most stressful days of my life because first I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and get on the plane and leave Ohio State," he said. "That was crazy. They couldn't wake me up. Then I got in around 9 o'clock, talked it over with my mom and dad and was like, ‘I feel like I should de-commit from Florida. I feel like that's not the best place.'
"At the end of the day I called LSU and told them I didn't think that was the best fit for me. Then I called up Ohio State and they welcomed me with open arms and everything was great."
Now Shazier is one of five freshmen already on campus getting a start on next season. Listed at 6-2, 210 pounds, he will begin the process of adjusting from a defensive end to a linebacker.
"He's more of a pass-rush guy," linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. "In the all-star games that he played in he was learning to play more of a stand-up position. Ryan's a kid that's got great versatility for us. He's got a great motor."
Throughout Shazier's recruitment, Cash said he tried not to pressure him to join the Buckeyes. Now that Shazier has, however, Cash said he is excited to continue his career with the linebacker.
"Throughout the whole process I was always there in his ear about Ohio State but I had to keep my distance being that I didn't want him to go there for me, I wanted him to do whatever was best for him," the safety said. "The things that were going on between him and his family, that was their decision. They felt that he should go to Florida and I was there to support him one way or the other whether he was going to Florida or going to Ohio State.
"No matter what, we were always going to be boys."