Faith, Stength Lead Sylvain to West Point

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2004

By GEORGE MAHL Sports Editor

DESTREHAN – August 2003 is a month Aaron Sylvain will never forget.

The 2004 Destrehan graduate had begun his Summer workout’s earlier with speed trainer Tom Shaw in Metairie. He was ready for most anything.

“I was preparing to be the best wide receiver in the state and the nation,” Sylvain recalled. He was not aware, however, that he would not be able to compete in the 2003 season.

“I remember during the last play of practice I was tackled behind,” he said. “A few minutes later I was taken to the dressing room. I had no pain, but I knew I was injured.”

Sylvain still did not think that he was seriously injured.

“All I felt was numbness,” he said.

While Sylvain’s father checked out his son’s leg, he whispered to him a bible scripture in his ear: Isaiah 53:5.

“When Aaron got injured, his dad walks up to him and says ‘by his stripes you are here,’ said Monica Sylvain, Aaron’s stepmother.

With his deep religious feelings, Sylvain believed in the scripture, thought about it and felt a sense of calmness afterward.

“I felt a lot more relaxed.”

On August 15, 2003, Sylvain and his family arrived at Tulane Medical Clinic for surgery, which was to be performed by Dr. Charles Brunet. One of Brunet’s assistants asked him if he was in any pain. Sylvain responded he was not. “The doctor’s stood at me in disbelief,” he said.

The former Fighting Wildcats wide receiver said his injury was similar to the one suffered by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick during the 2003 season.

“Mike Vick had this injury and cried. How many people do you know break a leg and have no pain?” said Martin Sylvain. “It had to be because of his relationship with God.”

He began rehabilitation six weeks after his surgery. Twelve weeks later he was running.

His high school career ended with a quarterfinal loss to Carencro in the playoffs.

Early On

Before the season began, Sylvain was receiving many letters and calls from major universities.

“Once I got injured the letters and telephone calls came to a complete halt,” he added.

Sylvain achieved success not only on the playing field, but in the classroom as well. He carried a 3.5GPA and scored a 21 on the ACT. Even though he did not catch a pass his senior year, Destrehan Head Football Coach Stephen Robicheaux supported me by sending out tapes, making calls and speaking to any scout that came through Destrehan’s Athletic Department.

“I appreciate my coaches support because almost everyone believed that after my injury I would not get a scholarship,” Sylvain said.

“Coach Robicheaux and his staff have been so supportive. They deserve a lot of thanks,” said his mother.

During the winter of 2003, Sylvain had gotten a couple of looks from top Universities (Maryland and Oklahoma State). His father told him one evening “God has a place for you.” The next day he said to him “You’re going to Maryland.”

“We then located the school on the internet, began watching them play and learned more about the university,” Aaron Sylvain said.

However, for some reason the letters and phone calls from Maryland stopped coming in. Sylvain then turned his attention to Oklahoma State. The receivers coach from Oklahoma State flew down and spoke to Sylvain’s father about the University. He was confident something good would happen.

“I am thinking Oklahoma State invited me up for a visit and flew down their receivers coach. I truly believed they were going to offer me a scholarship.”

Signing day comes and goes

February 4, 2004 was national signing day. Sylvain, who played two years at West St. John, did not receive any scholarship offer.

“Obviously, I was a little disappointed,” he admitted.

On February 12, Robicheaux informed Sylvain that a coach from Maryland did call. The same day Sylvain found out that Oklahoma State did mail him a scholarship. His father did not tell him about the Oklahoma State scholarship.

“He told me how he sat down with coach Robicheaux and they both agreed that this would not be the right place for me.”

March 6 saw Sylvain and his family take a trip to Maryland where they met Maryland Head Football Coach Ralph Friedgen and some of his staff. To his displeasure, Maryland did not have a scholarship to offer him.

“He (Head Recruiter) told us if he had one (scholarship) he would have offered us one,” said Monica Sylvain.

With weeks passing by, the family did not stop believing.

Still not giving up

On May 12, while setting up for the Destrehan athletic banquet, Sylvain’s father received a call from Robicheaux telling him that WestPoint wanted to offer him a scholarship. It turned out Sylvain was related to Army’s top wide receiver, Aaron Alexander.

Prior to the visit, Army Head Football Coach Bobby Ross was sharing good things about Sylvain to others. The person that told Ross about him was none other than Friedgen, a long time friend of Ross.

“Coach Ross called Coach Friedgen and found out that Aaron is a good kid,” recalled Monica Sylvain.

Ross offered Sylvain a scholarship and he accepted. He will be playing a 10-game schedule this fall for the United States Military Prep School.

“He will still have four years of eligibility when he plays for Army. I think it’s a good thing that he is doing this,” said Martin Sylvain.

Ross has experience with coaching at the highest levels.

“I don’t think it gets any bigger than a coach who has taken a team to the Super Bowl (San Diego Chargers) and a National Championship (Georgia Tech),” Martin Sylvain explained.

Sylvain went on to thank Aaron’s grandparents (Ferdinand and Barbara Sylvain) as well as Aaron’s biological mom, Theory Verrett.

“Ten months after my injury, God delivered me my dream and a scholarship to a division one school. I believed before and after the injury that I would sign a scholarship with a division one university,” he concluded.