In many ways David Silvestro and the desire he brought to the field as an offensive tackle epitomized the magical season the Douglas High School football team enjoyed in 2003.
What Silvestro lacked in physical size, he more than made up for with his indomitable spirit on the field to help the Tigers to an 11-1 record, Sierra League championship and berth in the Northern 4A championship game. Memories from that season — and more — will be revisited Friday when Silvestro and many of his teammates reunite at the Douglas High School football program’s third annual Alumni Golf Tournament at the Carson Valley Golf Course.
In addition to those memories, time will be taken during the tournament’s luncheon to recognize Silvestro and the effort he is putting forth to meet his challenge against Hodgkin Disease.
“I’ll probably just hang out and visit and go to lunch afterward,” said Silvestro, who now lives in Yuba City, Calif. “A lot of the guys I played football with will be there so it should be pretty fun. I grew up with a lot of them … we’re like family.”
Silvestro was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s in January and is now near the end of treatment that appears to have been successful so far.
“I have three more chemotherapy treatments left and maybe some radiation treatments afterward,” he said. “The treatments seem to be working.”
Life appeared to be moving along smoothly in April 2013 after Silvestro graduated from Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno and landed his new job as an emergency medical technician for Bi-County Ambulance Service of Sutter and Yuba counties.
That smooth ride was interrupted earlier this year when he received the Hodgkin’s diagnosis. He well remembers Jan. 22 — one day before his 28th birthday — when he noticed the first sign of trouble.
“I just happened to notice a lump on my neck,” Silvestro recalled. “I gave it about a month to see if it would go away, and when it didn’t, I had it checked out. I’m normally healthy. I rarely get sick, so it would have been easy to forget about it. I was pretty lucky I caught it early. I was at the right place at the right time.”
Silvestro has taken time off from work to concentrate on his battle against cancer.
“I didn’t want to risk it so I’m just taking time off now,” he said. “The job is still there waiting for me when I get back.”
There are many good stories to tell from that 2003 season. When the postseason awards were handed out, Silvestro was named first-team all-region and all-league tackle.
The 6-foot, 215-pound offensive tackle — “I was only maybe 190; but we really didn’t have that big of an offensive line,” — helped the Tigers set school records in nearly every offensive category, including an average of 373 yards per game. The Tigers were 11-0 before their season ended on a snowy Nov. 21, 2003 night with a 34-13 loss in the Northern 4A finals against a Reno team that went on to win the state championship.
“David was always a great kid,” said Ernie Monfiletto, the Tigers’ current head coach who served as offensive coordinator in 2003. “I think he was a reflection of all the guys on that offensive line. They weren’t the biggest line in the league, but that isn’t important. You just need a huge heart and I think that’s what made that team so special.”
Monfiletto can all-too-well relate to Silvestro’s battle, having overcome Hodgkin’s himself. Like Silvestro, Monfiletto has a memory for dates.
“It was Dec. 8, 1998 (diagnosis) ... my last treatment was Aug. 12, 1999,” he said. “I’m sure he will remember those dates as landmarks. Mine was a little further along, but both were challenges. I’m not surprised to see David respond so well to the treatments. He has a great support system. He is surrounded by a great family and great friends.”
After high school
Silvestro decided to focus on academics in college and eventually found his next career at Western Nevada College.
“I ended up taking an EMT class at WNC and found I really enjoyed it,” Silvestro said.
His job is an interesting story in itself since his grandfather, the late David Silvestro, retired from the Yuba City Fire Department as an emergency medical technician and firefighter.
“My grandpa knew the guy who opened the company,” Silvestro said. “People down there know who he was and some of the older ones took classes from him. It’s kind of fun when they find out what my name is and they start telling stories about my grandpa.”
Silvestro says he still enjoys playing some slow-pitch softball and staying active.
“Before all this happened, I was in the gym working out and lifting every day I wasn’t working,” Silvestro said. “I think it (physical conditioning) did make a difference. I’m fairly young and I take care of myself. That and trying to stay positive, I think all of that helps.
“You never think anything like that is going to happen to you. It’s easy to take small things for granted, things like going to work … I’d love to be able to go to work now. Something like this teaches you to live every day to the fullest type of thing.”