Stevenson Sylvester Visits Valley High
by MATT KELEMEN
Before kicking off his NFL career, Stevenson Sylvester found a mentor in Valley High School’s Marcus Sherman (FAR LEFT)
Stevenson Sylvester had less than 48 hours left to spend in Las Vegas before heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp, but he made time to visit with Marcus Sherman, Valley High School’s football coach, and meet some aspiring Vikings football players on campus. The professional footballer owes a lot to Sherman: The coach, Valley High’s defensive coordinator when Sylvester played there, is the one who convinced the University of Utah to check out his prodigy’s athletic ability. Without Sherman, there might not have been a scholarship to Utah, a fifth-round pick during the 2010 NFL draft, or two seasons (so far) with Pittsburgh–including a Super Bowl XLV appearance.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy may have escaped the Steelers’ grasp in 2011, but number 55 is determined to help his team win its seventh Super Bowl. This year, Sylvester, primarily a special teams player in the past, will likely back up veteran Larry Foote at the inside “buck” linebacker position. “When you first get into the league you spend a certain amount of time playing special teams,” he says. “Unless you’re a first- or second-round draft pick, you’re not supposed to play that much defense. It’s time I made that transition from being a special-teams player to a defensive player.”
Sylvester’s balance of experience and youth works in his favor. As team captain at both Valley High and Utah, where he double-majored in mass communications and economics, Sylvester already had the leadership and communication skills required of a defense-leading buck linebacker. Now he says he’s in the best shape of his life, in part thanks to personal trainer John Schaeffer.
Schaeffer maxed out Sylvester’s strength and conditioning while helping him shed weight. A hernia operation kept him out of some of the preseason, but he resumed Schaeffer’s training as fast as his recovery allowed. “The whole thing’s about getting to the ball and speed,” says Sylvester, who had bulked up to approximately 255 pounds last season. “That’s why I lost 20 pounds. Now I feel great; I’m opening up, and my speed is where it’s never been before.”
Sylvester was second string for his first preseason game (and a knee injury kept him out of the start of the regular season), so he has the rest of the regular season ahead to prove himself. Sherman has watched Sylvester rise to the occasion before, cultivating greatness in him as a high school athlete and watching him grow in size and ability during his time at Utah. Sylvester’s jersey still hangs in Valley High’s gym, and the athlete has been able to pay his former coach back by being an inspiration to each new generation of Vikings players. “He’s got the experience, he’s got the skills, he’s got the confidence,” Sherman says. “It’s his time.”
photography by Christopher DeVargas