Stevenson Sylvester's sophomore campaign with one of the NFL's top defensive units is currently underway, as the #55 inside linebacker for the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. As a 5th round pick, out of the University of Utah, Sylvester had to show and prove his worth. Countless hours of hard work in the gym have paid off with a successful rookie season in the books, and year #2 currently in full swing.
The NFL lockout presented much uncertainty around the year's football season, so Stevenson is certainly excited to be back on the field. He takes a break in his schedule to speak with BallerStatus.com, following recent Sunday NFL game.
Get to know Stevenson Sylvester in this exclusive interview.
BallerStatus.com: Coming out of the University of Utah, what has been the biggest transition for you from college to the pro game?
Stevenson Sylvester: Everything's really just turned up a notch. The playbook is bigger and everyone is faster. It all takes some adjusting. Then, add in that the NFL is essentially 32 all-star teams of the best that college had to of6fer.
Another difference between the two has been the training is so different from college. In college, you were also attending classes, so there was only a certain amount of time that you could meet and practice with your team. In the NFL, this is these guys' professions. They do this for a living, so it's taken that much more serious and it intensifies at all levels from your studying, to executing, to finishing with the right technique. This is really a profession and you gotta do everything right to be successful. That's the biggest change.
BallerStatus.com: Was there any pressure coming to a franchise like Pittsburgh, that has such a rich football tradition?
Sylvester: Of course. For me, especially coming to Pittsburgh was really an honor all in itself. I was actually the third linebacker drafted in my draft class, so the likelihood of me making the team was very small. Knowing this, I put in a lot of work in order to be successful in the system and make them see potential in me for the future. That's what I did all last pre-season, training camp, and all during my rookie year. I laid down the foundation of work and I just gotta keep it going.
BallerStatus.com: You already spoke a little about what it means to play for the Steelers. Can you talk about what it's like being a part of such an elite linebackers unit and what you've learned so far being around guys like Harrison, Woodley, and Farrior?
Sylvester: A lot about professionalism. But I've learned so much from this whole team, including players like (Troy) Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, this is our profession, but we should never lose track that it's still a game. Have fun with it. When you have fun, that's when you win and you become successful. When people start taking it too serious, they end up messing up even more then if they were just having fun playing.
BallerStatus.com: I hear that. So with a full season under your belt, where would you say is the most intense environment to play in besides Pittsburgh?
Sylvester: Well, of course, our rivals over in Baltimore. Going down to New Orleans to face the Saints was alright. I was there for the Sugar Bowl in college, so going back there as an NFL player was pretty nice. They were coming off their Super Bowl win a couple years ago, so they still had that same buzz going on down there. But where ever we travel, we normally bring out a great crowd, regardless of if it's our fans or not.
BallerStatus.com: The storyline, of course, for this summer was the NFL lockout. Was there any doubt in your mind that there wouldn't be a season?
Sylvester: In my mind, I didn't think so. I just wasn't sure when it would start. I always thought there would be a season, because it's football. Football affects a lot more than just people who play it. It just brings so many friends together. There are even women clubs now who come together just to watch football. (Laughs) But even economically, it directly affects jobs, revenue and hotels. A lot of people would've been affected, so I was certain there would be a season. It was just a matter of when it would start and we were just lucky that it started right on time.
BallerStatus.com: Well said. Moving along, what was your main focus of improvement during this offseason, between your rookie season and sophomore campaign?
Sylvester: My main improvement was trying to get better control of my body and get some power. I have this personal trainer. You know, Apolo Ohno the speed skater?
BallerStatus.com: Yea, yea...
Sylvester: I have the same trainer, so I was training with Apolo some when he was in town. But it was important for me to keeping getting stronger. I also needed to put on a little weight, but keep my speed up at the same time. We did a pretty good job. I love my trainer and can't wait to go back next offseason, so I can make my third year even better.
BallerStatus.com: Where did you train?
Sylvester: It's about an hour outside of Philly. It's in Eastern Pennsylvania, in a little town where not too much is going on. It's called Reading, Pennsylvania. It's just a small town with a population of no more than 2,500.
BallerStatus.com: So, when you weren't training this offseason, how did you spend your downtime?
Sylvester: I was moving around Pittsburgh, trying to get my house set up. I was working out or just doing little things. I took some time out to visit family, did a couple vacations here and there. I went to Miami to visit some old friends; went to Hawaii to participate in one of my teammates camps, and had a nice little time. But for the most part, I was back here in Pittsburgh.
BallerStatus.com: Any personal goals you've set for yourself this season?
Sylvester: My personal goal is to help the team in any fashion. Special teams is my role right now, but I'm always ready to go in on defense whenever my number is called, because injuries are such a big part of this league that the backups have to be ready on call. Therefore, I'm always in my playbook as much as possible, so I know all the positions. It's important that the team doesn't miss a beat if someone goes down. But on special teams, I'm out there to make plays and put our team in the best position, whether it's making the key block to free up returners, or having good coverage when the other team is returning the football.
BallerStatus.com: Appreciate talking to you. Hope that you have another good season and that you guys get back to the Super Bowl another time.
Sylvester: Oh yea! And winning this time!
For more on Stevenson Sylvester, visit Sly55.com; or follow him on Twitter @SSylvester55.