TEMPE – Every team has its vocal leader in the locker room. Whether it’s the person who gives pregame speeches or the one motivating other players, teams look to these leaders to keep everyone focused on the goal.
For Arizona State’s football team, defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera fit that role to a very loud T during the 2022 season. Following the season Silvera, a graduate student, declared for the NFL draft, showcased his skills at the NFL combine and has a good chance to be selected over the weekend during the later stages of the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night.
Silvera was a highly recruited four-star prospect at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida. He ranked second in his class at the defensive tackle position and was the 11th-ranked prospect coming out of Florida. He committed to the University of Miami, where he became a productive player for the Hurricanes.
At Miami, Silvera started his junior and senior seasons, earning honorable mention on the All-ACC team in 2020. After his senior season, however, Silvera entered the transfer portal. He chose Arizona State after conversations with ASU assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez, who dissected Silvera on film and suggested ways he could improve.
“When he’s out there on the field, he’s an intense competitor. He’s all business,” Rodriguez said. “He’s all about getting the best out of his teammates and winning.”
Although it was a rocky 2022 for the Sun Devils, Silvera was a bright spot. He started the last 10 games of the season, tied for most tackles per loss on the team (4.5) and finished with 56 total tackles. His ability to beat offensive tackles to the correct spot using his power and lateral quickness helped him wrap up opponents behind the line of scrimmage, and his tenaciousness helped him get named to the All-Pac-12 honorable mention team.
“He’s a bundle of energy when he comes off the line,” said Cole Topham, ASU football reporter for Sun Devil Source and NFL draft writer for Chargers Wire, a USA Today Sports affiliate. “He’s always going to be one of the more physical and explosive players out on the field. There was no one who had a higher motive than him out in the field.”
Over his collegiate career, Silvera has been a consistent producer on the field while navigating the sport’s external challenges. This includes playing for multiple coaching staffs, both at Miami and ASU. He sees this as a double-edged sword while preparing for the NFL Draft.
“I’ve been in college for five years, I’ve had four different D-line coaches, four different head coaches, and four different (defensive coordinators),” Silvera said. “I didn’t have the luxury to be comfortable like these guys but yet I always produce, I always come through and do what I do.”
Following his fifth year, Silvera participated in both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft Combine. This was a chance to showcase his talent against others who hope to be selected in Thursday’s NFL Draft. The Senior Bowl and the combine helped Silvera give scouts a chance to see him compete head-to-head against other prospects.
Silvera was the lone Sun Devil at the NFL combine in early March. His combine day showed a mixture of strength and speed, specifically his 1.77 10-yard split and 9’2” broad jump. He showed good athleticism for his 304-pound frame. Silvera said his combine experience was exciting, as he felt confident about his performance.
“I stood on a lot of my combine numbers and a lot of the stuff I did there. Obviously position work, I wanted to show what I could do,” Silvera said. “Show that I could move, show that I’m very agile. I’m like a linebacker playing defensive tackle.”
Because he was training for the combine, Silvera was not active during Arizona State’s pro day at the end of March. However, this did not stop him from supporting his teammates as they showcased their talents and tried to prove to scouts that they, too, belong in the NFL. Typically the loudest player in the room or on the field, Silvera exhorted his teammates to push for extra inches on the vertical jump in hopes of helping them improve their scores.
“These guys are guys that helped me get to where I got: the combine, the Senior Bowl. It’s the guys out here that helped me get there,” Silvera said. “I just wanted one last go-around with these guys.”
A natural leader on the defensive line, Silvera’s energy and effort is always something any coach can rely on. His intensity for the game drives him every play. He can motivate a locker room and be the vocal leader on a defense.
“What you need to know about Nesta is just the tone he sets at practice,” Topham said. “He’s a loud, energetic, very vocal player and that’s who he’s been his entire career.”
Although no Sun Devil is expected to be selected early like former Sun Devils N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk, who were each taken in the first round of their respective drafts, it would be surprising to see Silvera drop out of the draft completely. The combination of his size and strength along with his leadership skills should captivate general managers into selecting Silvera toward the later rounds.
As Silvera puts it, ASU fans will just have to “see where the cards fall” for their vocal captain.