Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2015

Currently: 69° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Valley High grad preparing for NFL career

Stevenson Sylvester hopes to be selected in next week’s NFL Draft


Dave Martin / Associated Press

Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester celebrates after sacking the Alabama quarterback in the first half of the 2009 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

On the first day of contact practice at Valley High in 2003, then-junior varsity coach John Elwell listed sophomore Stevenson Sylvester as a second-team linebacker on the JV squad.

That didn't last long.

"By the end of the scrimmage, he was undoubtedly a first-teamer," Elwell, now the varsity coach at Valley, said. "Midway through that season, he was a standout on varsity."

Sylvester never stopped his upward progression in football from there. He became an all-state linebacker for the Vikings his senior year and received a scholarship to play at Utah, where he was a three-time all-Mountain West Conference performer.

Now Sylvester is preparing for the next phase. He's working toward being selected in next Thursday's NFL Draft or signing a free-agent deal with an NFL team.

"I can't even explain it," Sylvester said. "It's just a dream."

Most NFL Draft analysts, including those at ESPNand Draft Countdown, say Sylvester will be a late-round selection or a free-agent prospect.

The projections don't bother Sylvester, who just wants a shot.

"It's just people's ideas," Sylvester said. "You can't do anything except wait. It's killing me because all I want to get is my opportunity. I know if I don't get drafted, I've got to work even harder to prove I belong. But that shouldn't be a problem."

It shouldn't be a problem because Sylvester is used to being doubted. Valley coaches had to convince Utah to recruit him out of high school.

The Utes offered Sylvester, who schools saw as under-sized at 190 pounds, his only Division-I scholarship. Similar concerns have come up at the professional level.

Sylvester, 6-foot-2 and now 230 pounds, might be slightly smaller than a prototypical NFL linebacker. He also might not be quite as fast as some of the NFL's elite.

All these concerns sound eerily similar to Sylvester.

"It makes me go back to high school a lot," Sylvester said. "I didn't get a whole lot of attention and just had to work for my opportunity."

Once he got that opportunity, Sylvester was relentless. In addition to his individual accolades, he also was a captain on the 2009 Utah team that went 13-0 and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

As Elwell watched Sylvester pile up a team-high in tackles against the Crimson Tide, it was hard to forget the player's first high school game.

"He picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown," Elwell said. "It was almost like a defining moment for him. He was destined for greatness at that point and never looked back."

Sylvester, of course, could wind up with any of the 32 teams in the NFL. But he gave a few hints of which teams have shown the most interest.

He said he had talked with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers more than any other teams.

If Sylvester isn't drafted, it possibly could serve as a benefit because he can sift through offers and decide which team would be the best fit.

"It can be an advantage and it can't be," Sylvester said. "It's a business and any team can capture you at any second."

Elwell said Sylvester had been the talk of Valley in the last couple weeks. Much like it was during Sylvester's high school days, everyone wants to see what he'll do next.

"We just know from Valley that if he gets an opportunity, he's going to seize it," Elwell said. "He's going to make the best of it."

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

No trusted comments have been posted.