Having a brick wall as a linebacker is never a bad thing. That is just what senior linebacker Junior Sylvestre is for the Toledo Rockets. In Sylvestre's first full year as a starting linebacker for the Rockets' defense he wrestled 118 ball carriers to the ground, which was second in the MAC last season; he also averaged 9.8 tackles per game, which was 21st in the nation and third in the MAC.
With a great season comes great rewards, and that's just what came for Sylvestre during the offseason. Sylvestre has been listed on Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, starting linebacker on "MAC Football 2014 All-Conference Team", and is also one of five linebackers listed on Hustle Belt's own "Lambert Linebacking Award Watch List". But he doesn't put too much stock into what others say about him. Sylvestre said "I don't pay attention to the media. I don't even have a Twitter anymore, I'm trying to stay focus on this season."
Sylvestre played his high school ball at South Broward High School in Hollywood, Florida. He was not a highly recruited linebacker coming out of high school; in fact he played safety in high school racking up 57 tackles for his team. After a great senior season he was picked to play in the Broward County Athletic Association All-Star Game. He also was a track standout placing second in state his junior year on the 4x400 relay, and made the state finals in his sophomore season in the 200 meters event. Sylvestre received offers to play college football at UCF, and FIU, and also gained interested from FAU but decided to play at Toledo after a visit.
The first-team All-MAC selection last year could be the next MAC linebacker drafted to the pros following up Khalil Mack who was picked eighth overall to the Oakland Raiders in this years draft. His 6-foot height may scare some away but Sylvestre will be playing on Sundays, even if it has to be at a different position.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com recently put his two cents on Sylvestre case for the pros, writing:
He is a relentless player with the pursuit, speed and competitive drive that can't be ignored on tape, displaying the range and effort to make stops all over the field. Although he won't be as a high of pick as Khalil Mack, Sylvestre has shown similar versatility rushing the passer, dropping in coverage and simply being an all-around force, recognizing what the offense wants to do and putting himself in position to make a stop.
With his fellow teammates Chase Murdock and Treyvon Hester, and six other returning starters coming back for the Rockets D, they will be a force to be reckoned with this fall.