Oct. 5, 2000
There is a place along the Mexican coastline where the water is a bit greener, the sand is that much more warm, and the sun never seems to set. While Salsipuedes, a secluded town one hour south of the U.S. border, has become a tourist attraction for its magnificent views and beautiful mountains, for senior tackle Elliot Silvers, it will always be the place where his passion for surfing was at its crest.
"It is by far my most favorite place to surf," says the 6-7, 320-pound offensive lineman. "They have this campground where the owners bring you firewood and it costs about ten bucks a day to stay there. In the morning you wake up and make your way down this broken trail onto the beach and the waves are just incredible."
Growing up in Agoura Hills, California, ten minutes outside of Malibu, spending time at the beach was the norm. Although Silvers did enter one wakeboarding competition and made it into the semi-finals, his enthusiasm was always with surfing.
"All we did in the summer was hang out at the beach from early in the morning until the afternoon," remembers Silvers. "Obviously, moving up to Washington hasn't helped my skills any, but it's still fun to go home and get back out there."
Because of his interests on the water, Silvers didn't even start playing football until high school, where he made his debut as a wide receiver. Sharpening his skills and also going through a major growth spurt, Silvers was recruited by Washington, UNLV, and Oregon State.
"When I came up here, I really liked the coaching staff and the football atmosphere," he says. "My Mom liked the school because of the academics, so it was a decision I made based on the mix of both."
While the University of Washington was thrilled to have the commitment from Silvers, there were others who were a little bit more wary. In highly-publicized reports, some Seattle writers doubted the talent of Silvers and the decision by Washington to recruit him.
"The article said that I would never play a down of Washington football," he clearly recalls. "I have to look back and laugh. To be completely honest, I wasn't a very highly-recruited athlete. When I got here, I was just in awe of everyone. The first two offensive lineman I saw were Aaron Dalan, who is gigantic, and Bob Sapp. I laughed and thought to myself, `wow, I don't look like that.' So I actually had a little bit of self-doubt too."
While such early criticism and self-doubt could negatively affect some athletes, Silvers remained positive.
"It was hard to swallow at first, but I didn't let it get to me," he says. "I ran and lifted the whole summer until I was practically dead."
Not only has Silvers proven the critics wrong, entering into this season as a two-year starter, but he, along with the other members of the five-man front, have demonstrated their stability and effectiveness in controlling the line of scrimmage and protecting the pass. In 1999, Silvers and his fellow trenchmen helped the Huskies to lead the Pac-10 in time of possession, engineering long drives that both tired opposing defenses, and kept enemy offenses off the field. While in previous years the offensive line has been a serious question mark, this group has proven to be dominant.
"Our offensive line is a strength on our team right now," second-year coach Rick Neuheisel said prior to the season. "I hesitate to say they are the best around, although I think they could be. Maybe we don't have the most talent, but we play the hardest."
Offensive linemen tend to be of the same quality and are often described as the closest and the most tight-knit group on the entire squad. This bunch is no different.
"We are together non-stop," Silvers says. "We are the same in that none of us are glory-hounds. I think a lot of us like the anonymity and being in the shadows. We don't necessarily want our names in big, bright lights."
The play of Silvers has been steady since his arrival at Washington. While he redshirted his first season in 1996, he was named the most improved offensive lineman at the end of spring drills. Silvers played in the first four games of his second season until he was forced out with a dislocated kneecap, only to return for the Aloha Bowl. In 1998, Silvers made his first of eleven starts at offensive tackle, helping the Huskies rank second in the Pac-10 in sacks allowed with 19. His junior year marked the first time he had started in every game, along with the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State.
This year, Silvers is focused on doing what no Husky squad has done since 1991 -- win a conference title outright.
"I want to play as well as I can for the other guys so we can accomplish our goals," Silvers says. "I want to win a Pac-10 championship ring so bad that that is all I am focused on right now. I am doing everything I can to help the team get there."
First-year offensive line coach Brent Myers praises the effort of his big men.
"I think Elliot's biggest strength is that for being as big as he is, he is a very athletic guy," Myers says. "He has great body-balance and the ability to block people in the open field. Not only that, but he is an excellent pass-protector. He plays our split tackle position where he winds up facing the very good defensive ends, and his athleticism allows him to be successful at that position. He has put on some weight and added some strength, which has made him a more powerful player. We are very excited to see where Elliot goes because he has such a bright future."
The final chapter of Husky football is being written this season for these talented and accomplished athletes, and most are hoping for a storybook ending. For Elliot Silvers and the other four departing seniors from the offensive line, the time is now.