For his stellar play in three sports for the Raiders, Silva has been named the Sparks Tribune’s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year. The award, which is chosen by the Tribune’s sports staff, goes to the top senior athlete from the three Sparks-area high schools, Reed, Spanish Springs and Sparks.
“He is so athletic,” Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. “I’ve never seen a kid, in the years I’ve been at Reed, go from one sport to the next and have the type of success he’s had. When you’re competing at a high level, you have to be a competitor. And if you’ve ever been around A.J., you know he’ll go after anybody for anything. He hates to lose and that edge drives him to be who he is.”
Last fall, Silva started at quarterback for Reed’s Northern 4A championship and state-runner-up team and in the process earned the honor of Northern 4A Player of the Year after tossing 43 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
Then came the winter where he started for the Raiders basketball team and earned second-team all-league honors after helping Reed, which had not been to the postseason since 2009, qualify for regionals and win a first-round playoff for the first time in six years.
Two weeks ago, Reed’s baseball team completed its spring season. Silva started in the outfield and helped lead the Raiders back to the postseason there as well, after the team had missed out in three straight seasons.
“My whole life I’ve been playing sports and like being a competitor,” Silva said. “If I didn’t play a sport I’d go home after school and from and 3 p.m. to midnight have nothing to do. I couldn’t handle it. I have to be doing something. I don’t like being second. You compete to be the best and you should try to excel in everything.
“Sure there were times when I felt like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to practice today,’ but then when you’re playing a game, you remember ‘this is what it’s all about, playing against your friends and kids you don’t like at the same time. That’s always fun.’”
Dating back to 2003, Reed football has had an all-league caliber quarterback under center. Brent Showalter guided the RHS offense in 2010 and was named the Northern 4A’s Offensive Player of the Year. Last summer, most outsiders didn’t know if Reed would be able to reload at the position, but it did just that as Silva took the reins to the Raiders’ spread offense and flourished.
“From the first day of UNR camp (in June 2011) I knew we had the guy,” Howren said. “That’s how much he stood out. There was no doubt in my mind this kid was going to be special. The attention to detail he brought to the game was superb. Our quarterbacks have had good arms and been athletic, but the mental edge he brought really put him at a whole different level ... He is the best we’ve ever had, the best in school history. Considering his stat line, 43 TDs and six picks, it’s hard not to argue he’s the best this area has ever seen.”
Silva said there was a time going into his junior year he believed he had a real chance to earn the Raiders’ starting QB gig. Then he said he made a poor decision outside of football that cost him that opportunity. Instead of leading Reed to another standout season, he watched from the sidelines, something he was not accustomed to.
“I kind of knew going into the that summer before junior year, after I got into trouble, I couldn’t compete for the job,” Silva said. “So I knew I needed to make my senior year one to remember. I made a poor decision and it cost me my junior year so I wanted to come back my senior year and prove to myself and to my teammates I could help our team achieve its goals.
“My junior year, as the scout team quarterback, I was practicing against the best defense in the North. That prepared me for my senior year.”
Howren said Silva’s setback his junior year made up part of the journey that helped his senior success.
“Being put in that position, you definitely saw an edge,” Howren said. “It was like he said, ‘I’ll show everybody how good I am.’ That’s what came out of that situation. It definitely motivated him.”
When football finished Silva had a new mission. Reed has been a perennial Northern Nevada playoff contender in basketball for 30-plus years. But after missing out on postseason play in 2010 and 2011, some wondered if Reed’s traditional success was a thing of the past. So the Raiders came into the season under the radar.
After football’s run to the state title tilt, Silva and a handful of other Reed football players joined the Raiders’ hoop squad a few weeks into the season. They wasted no time reaching midseason form. Silva and the Raiders jumped out to a 5-0 start in league play and quickly began turning heads with their up-tempo style.
Reed earned a second-place High Desert League finish, behind state runner-up Hug, and with that earned a home playoff game. Silva, who finished among the team leaders in scoring, led the RHS hoopsters into the regional semifinals and the all-league swingman was a big part of restoring Reed’s return to relevance.
“Basketball season was cool,” Silva said. “Everyone doubted us, the whole season. That got our whole team angry. We wanted to prove we were the team to beat. We bought into everything Coach Hall said. We changed the whole offense to run-and-gun, get the ball and go. And we could tell, the games we did that, we won. The games where we did our own thing, we lost.”
When March rolled around, Silva was ready for baseball and to help another program at his east Sparks school regain some prominence. Reed did not miss the regional playoffs from 1980 through 2008, but that streak was followed by three straight lackluster years that left the Raiders out of the postseason mix.
Silva, a three-year varsity letter winner for the Reed nine, turned in a sterling season. The efforts of he and his teammates helped turn around the Raiders’ fortunes. Reed earned a return trip to the postseason after a three-year hiatus.
Reed baseball coach Ray Charles echoed Howren’s sentiments about Silva’s competitive nature.
“The No. 1 thing I’d say about A.J. is he competes,” Charles said. “He’s the biggest competitor I’ve seen and been around here at Reed High School. He’s on of the best competitors in game situations. He totally wants to win and will do anything to win.
“His competitive nature is his best attribute. I’ve been around a long time and haven’t seen too many kids with more tenacity than A.J.”
Silva doesn’t just shine in athletic venues. He has a 3.63 grade-point average. After all his successes at Reed, he’s ready to experience life outside of Sparks-Reno. The 18-year-old is set to attend Montana State where he will compete for playing time as the Bobcats’ placekicker. Silva is set to work out in late June in southern California with Billy Cundiff, placekicker for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
He’ll report to the MSU campus in Bozeman, Mont. in late July and prepare for the start of the college football season. His university academic career will begin about a month later.
“I want to get out of Reno and see what it’s like somewhere else,” Silva said of his decision to attend Montana State. “I got some (scholarship) money to go up there and when I went on my visit up there, it felt like I was already part of the team. It really felt like home.”
Howren has few reservations Silva can stand out for the Bobcats.
“I have no doubt in my mind, if he takes advantage of the opportunity in front of him, I can see him doing something special down the road,” said the Raiders’ veteran gridiron coach.
Silva is the son of Jim and Lisa Silva. He has one sibling, sister Brooke, a 2010 Reed graduate who plays softball at Weber State and was also a standout multi-sport athlete at Reed.