With so many high school student-athletes trying to make it to the collegiate level, it's easy for even talented players to slip through the cracks. Such was the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers' inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.
Despite being a high school standout, Sylvester found himself un-recruited his senior season. "I didn't have the money to attend camps to gain exposure for myself," Sylvester explains. "I had no schools looking at me, so my high school defensive coordinator put some calls out to coaches he knew at Utah. When [the coaches] watched me play, they were blown away. Utah called me a 'diamond in the rough' in terms of my good luck that they found me."
But Sylvester didn't rely on luck alone to carry him through college. Once he became a Ute, he went to work, contributing almost immediately and missing only two games in four years (due to a high ankle sprain). Sylvester's hard work and determination paid off. In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Steelers picked him in the fifth round.
Although he is still waiting in the wings, the linebacker knows he has to pay his dues, and he's not worried. He says, "We have so many All-Pros on this squad, you just got to take a step back. I was blessed to even get to college, so to be part of a Super Bowl-winning team is truly a blessing. I'm just taking each day with a smile and loving where I'm at."
Although he's content to wait for his big shot, Sylvester is working hard to improve, putting in hours training "every day, seven days a week, all season and off-season." "I'm eager," he says. "I wanna be on that field more than anything. The patient one always will get what he wants, I've learned. I'm waiting my turn; I'll be ready … Look at the evidence: [LaMarr] Woodley and [Lawrence] Timmons didn't start until their third year; Harrison got cut by a bunch of different teams in the beginning. Now look at them."
So, if you find yourself scrambling to find a college, take heart from Sylvester's experience, and don't give up your dream. "It's the same process with high school, college or the NFL," he says. "The likelihood of getting in is small, but as long as you show potential and play hard, you can find your place on the field somewhere."
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