Nesta Silvera appreciates a good thing.
The 6-2, 308-pound senior defensive tackle who wears No. 99 and swallows high school running backs when they dare run his way has enjoyed every second of American Heritage’s 25-game winning streak — including lining up alongside three of the best defensive players Broward County might ever produce in four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield and five-star cornerbacks Pat Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell.
But with the Patriots (11-0) set to host Immokalee (12-0) in the Class 5A state semifinals Friday, and only two wins away from winning a fourth state title in five years, it was probably a bad idea Tuesday to ask Silvera — a University of Miami commitment since Valentine’s Day — whether he’s a little sad that his time with Heritage’s star-studded defensive cast is nearing an end.
“I’m not trying to reminisce before it’s done,” Silvera said sternly. “We’re just taking it one day at a time. Every Friday, we cash those checks. We’ve been able to do that 25 times in a row. Now it’s just time to make it 26.”
The truth is there’s a chance Silvera, Chatfield, Campbell and Surtain Jr., the No. 1 uncommitted recruit in the country according to 247 Sports, could all still be teammates next season.
Although it felt like a long shot in August, UM’s surprising 10-1 season and re-emergence in the national limelight has made the Hurricanes a real player to not only keep Silvera as a commitment, but potentially add three more huge pieces from the country’s No. 3-ranked high school football team on National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
“You can’t count anything out,” Patriots coach Pat Surtain Sr. said of the possibility of his son, Campbell, Chatfield and Silvera all end up signing with the Hurricanes.
“As 17-, 18-year-old impressionable kids, of course it’s going to get you excited to see the way those guys have transformed their program and kind of got it back to where it used to be,” Surtain Sr. continued. “They’re invigorated and interested in UM. They’ve seen what kind of plays they’re making in the secondary, the way their defense is flying around and the way coach Richt has brought the culture back. Fans are showing up at [Hard Rock] Stadium. It’s reminiscent of the old days. I think guys take heed to that and want to be part of that — not just the guys from our school, but the kids from all around South Florida. They want to bring Miami football back. It’s exciting right now.”
Surtain Jr., who met with an LSU assistant coach Tuesday at school, said he’s very much considering Miami now along with LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida and FSU.
“They’ve recruited me hard and they’re still in the mix,” he said. “[Former Heritage coach and current UM defensive backs coach Mike] Rumph and Coach Richt are doing a great job. You can feel the swagger coming back. They’re bringing old tradition back. [Playing at UM together is] something we talk about, us being back together in college and bonding at the next level. It’s something we talk about often.”
But it’s something that Campbell (6-2 1/2, 180) and Chatfield (6-2, 221) said they would prefer to seriously talk about once their season is over. Although they’ve all met with visiting college coaches on campus at Heritage throughout the season, all three of the uncommitted Patriots defensive stars said they won’t seriously start thinking about where they want to play next year until after state championship weekend Dec. 9.
Chatfield, a former Ohio State commitment, received a UM offer on Nov. 2. He’s considering the Canes along with Oklahoma, Florida and LSU.
“I didn’t go to the Miami-Notre Dame game, but I’ve been to some other ones, Virginia and Virginia Tech,” said Chatfield, who has 77 tackles, 19 for loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions and a fumble return for a TD this season. “I just see how their defense has come a long way really, turned the whole program around. Having Coach Rumph there, he always talks to me about coming there and being a big part of it. I’ve always looked at it like that’s a good defense and that’s a good school.
“I also like that they get turnovers and then they give out the turnover chain. That just makes them get more turnovers and work 10 times harder to show everybody that Miami is back at the top. That’s another thing that’s dope about them. They’ve come out with new swag.”
Campbell — long pursued by UM and getting recruited by Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Clemson and Ohio State — said he’s far off from making a college decision. But he admits that seeing the way fans have embraced the Hurricanes this season has opened his eyes. He, Surtain Jr., Surtain and Silvera all attended the UM-Notre Dame game and left moved by the atmosphere and the way UM played defense.
“I think the way the fans were supporting the team, it was like how it was back in the old days; and the way their defense was playing, it was like they had their swagger again,” Campbell said. “I feel like this season has been a huge stepping stone for them for years to come.”
Said Surtain Sr.: “I just think being in that atmosphere, seeing the way they played, just the energy Miami football generates [changed things for Pat Jr.]. They say college football is better when Miami is playing good. They’re playing good this year, creating turnovers and [Pat Jr.] can see himself in that system. Press corner, man-to-man, it’s what he loves to do. It’s not only with Miami, but other schools recruiting him also. He can see himself playing in that kind of system.”