Oct. 5, 2012
A stocky, wild-haired defensive back flies around the field at Alumni Stadium making play after play conjuring up memories of Jamie Silva. But it is not Silva, it is Sean Sylvia.
Sylvia, now a sophomore at Boston College, was a regular at Alumni Stadium when his sister went to school here. This was during what Sylvia calls the, "glory years" of BC football with Matt Ryan under center. He was so enamored with these talented teams that Sylvia would settle for nothing less than becoming an Eagle himself.
Sylvia's favorite player from those days was none other than Silva. Sylvia sees a lot of similarities beyond their last names. Sylvia is an inch taller but they both weigh in at 210 pounds. Sylvia is from Dartmouth, Mass., while Silva is from Providence, R.I., both in the southern portion of New England. And Sylvia's long, wild hair is nearly identical to Silva's. Sylvia has modeled his entire football style off of the former BC All-American.
It's odd that Sylvia, a quarterback in high school, came to idolize Silva when Ryan was the team's biggest star. Perhaps it is because Sylvia never fully grasped the position of quarterback.
"It was just necessity," Sylvia explained. "We were just trying to get the ball in my hands and distribute it to the other athletes. I didn't really know what I was doing."
Sylvia believes that coming to BC without much experience in the defensive backfield actually helped him, as it made him easy to coach. A self-proclaimed ball of clay coming in blind, Sylvia has seen himself shaped into one of the most versatile players on the team. He has risen from a redshirt freshman to starting two games a season ago, to starting games at both cornerback and safety for the Eagles this season.
"Wherever they put me, I need to produce. Anyone of our guys can play anywhere and be effective," Sylvia said.
His willingness to learn came to fruition at home against Clemson when Sylvia posted Silva-esque numbers, leading the team with 12 tackles and notching a highlight-reel interception in the second quarter. It was a huge play as it kept the Eagles in the game after a failed fourth-down attempt from the CU offense. The pick helped set up a crucial touchdown that brought BC to within three points of the Tigers.
"The coaches had been harping that [Clemson is] going to take a deep shot," Sylvia said. "I just had a gut feeling. I just read my fundamentals, DeAndre [Hopkins] released and I tried to run with him which was kind of difficult, but the ball was underthrown and I had to make the play that was supposed to be made."
Sylvia was highly motivated entering the contest as he cited last year's game at Clemson as his worst collegiate performance. Now, after one of his best collegiate performances, he feels he finally understands what college football is all about, learning and preparation.
"I need to approach every game like that now," Sylvia said. "That just goes with the maturity of playing college football and knowing how to prepare for a game."
Though the Eagles sit at 1-3 as they did at this point last year, Sylvia feels that not only his maturity level, but the team's, is higher than a season ago. He thinks it will make them more competitive and give them an edge as they look to turn things around.
"We're not as young; we're not taking losing as easy as last year," Sylvia said. "It's not as easy to lose."
In order to stop losing, Sylvia knows that the defense is going to have to step up. Through four games, it has allowed over 40 points twice and rank 76th in the nation with 27.8 points allowed per game. With his interception against Clemson marking a turning point in the game, Sylvia sees turnovers as key to a winning record this year.
"We have to take more ownership on defense," Sylvia said. "The offense is going to score points, so we have to hold our weight, keep teams from scoring as much as they're scoring because they are pretty much having their way with us," Sylvia said.
His frustration shows but even though BC is down early in the season, Sylvia is determined to start winning games and help bring the team back to where they were when that other wild-haired defensive back was changing games for the Eagles
"There's no reason we can't win eight in a row," Sylvia said. "That's just the mindset I have and I know a lot of the guys on the defense have. [We] want to win the rest of our games and go to a good bowl game."
Written by senior Eddie Lockhart