The miles are many between Honolulu and Central New York.
Dino Babers knows the distance, 4,816 miles in all — very well. So does Mike Cavanaugh and son, Blair. The former Hawaii linebacker and current Syracuse head coach, Babers, and former UH, current Syracuse offensive line coach, Cavanaugh, are on board with Blair, the quality control/special teams coach. They made Isaac Silva a happy young man on Sunday, offering him a preferred walk-on (PWO) opportunity.
“My trainer, Marcus Kimura, he’s friends with Coach Blair. We’ve been going back and forth for awhile. I applied to Syracuse three or four weeks ago,” Silva said. “Last night, he called and it was official. My mom and dad are really happy. They said the hard work is paying off. I’ve got to stay focused and keep getting better every day.”
Silva caught 57 passes for 602 yards and a touchdown as a senior last season as Saint Louis captured its fourth consecutive Open Division state crown. Then he started in the backcourt for the Crusaders basketball team, which was ranked in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 for part of the season. Silva also has a 4.3 grade-point average. Now the other side of the numbers game is in play. Tuition and board at the school is roughly $70,000.
“When you apply at a college, financial aid is based on merit. I applied for a bunch of Hawaii academic scholarships,” said Silva, who puts the number at around 10. “They’re a private university and their endowment is pretty big, so hopefully they can give me some money.”
On the field, Syracuse runs a mix of formations, from a spread to an I-formation slot.
“I think that’s why they took an interest in me,” said Silva, played in the slot opposite of Koali Nishigaya.
During this COVID-19 shutdown, he continues to train.
“I’m working out with Matt (Sykes),” Silva said, referring to his UCLA-bound classmate. “We’re running routes, ladders, cone drills. Anything to get more explosive. You’ve got to stay on it every day. A lot of people are resting, but I can’t rest.”
Sykes’ older brother, former Crusader Chris Sykes, is back from Dartmouth and works out with them.
“Chris throws the ball. We do what we got to do. We’re trying to stay healthy, disinfect everything after we’re done,” Silva said. “Whoever wants to get the work in, it’s all good.”
He has gained 15 pounds since the end of basketball season. It was a long ride for Silva, from the start of camp in July to the mid-December game in Las Vegas, and then straight into basketball season. But the training is amping up.
“I’m trying to focus on getting my body right for the next level and I really got a long way to go. My goal is (to weigh) 185, 190,” he said. “We’re not doing combine stuff. Just doing what we would see at a college practice. I’m not really a combine guy. I just try to focus on getting my routes right, getting faster, keep working on my hands.”
The rest of the time, Silva is home sleeping or watching movies with his family. Resting. Thinking. Planning. Playing D-I football has been his dream all this time, but if Syracuse is out of reach, there are still other options.
“We’re waiting on the Ivy League decisions, which is pretty big,” Silva said of Harvard and Yale. “My other plan would be Lewis and Clark (Ore.). They have pretty good academics. They’re always in the picture. I already applied and got in. I don’t know the number, but they’re giving a lot of (financial assistance). I got a strong merit scholarship and also another scholarship from them. I’ll also have my FAFSA.”
Silva is hoping his fellow pass catcher, Nishigaya, gets an opportunity at the highest level. Nishigaya had 79 receptions for 1,020 yards and nine TDs, earning All-State honors. He also scored seven TDs as a running back. Nishigaya has a scholarship offer from Montana State Northern.
“I think Koali is looking to walk on,” he said. “I think he’s way too talented to go NAIA. He can play D-I.”