Trading shoulder pads for teaching
(CNN) – He has intercepted passes from both of the Super Bowl quarterbacks, but Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have nothing on Mr. Silva.
The NFL just wasn’t adding up for Ricardo Silva, so he decided to hang up his shoulder pads and head back to school — to teach high school geometry.
Silva, 26, played two seasons in the NFL, earning more than $500,000 a year as safety for the Detroit Lions and then briefly with the Carolina Panthers. Now, he earns about $50,000 a year as recruit for Teach for America. Silva made a two year commitment to Washington’s Ballou High school starting back in September.
It doesn’t seem like a fiscally responsible career move, but for Silva, leaving the NFL was just part of a bigger vision for his life.
“My mission was to be able to play football as long as I can and then eventually I wanted to go into teaching which would be either math or social studies,” says Silva who was a political science major at Virginia’s Hampton University.
Despite having a break out senior season and being named an HBCU All-American, Silva was undrafted in 2011. He signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad and then became a starting safety a few months later.
“I wanted to get to college and start in the NFL. Play in the NFL, start in the NFL. It was not an easy road for me and this is how I can relate to students. I didn’t grow up being the fastest person or the strongest person, I had to work every way,” says Silva.
The Carolina Panthers picked Silva up off waivers in 2013. When he was cut by the Panthers, he turned down offers to play football in Canada and a college coaching job to teach. He says it’s all about making an impact for young people.
“Anyone can be an NFL player and coach football. How many NFL players are going back into the classroom to get (kids) to college?” says Silva. “It’s more than football to me, it’s life.”
Silva wants to motivate students to go to college. It’s a big challenge in a school where he says only about a 30% of students attend university.
His efforts have seemed to have already made a difference for his students, including 10th grader Eric Cary who credits Silva with helping him raise his grade from a D+ to a B in Geometry.
“He’s a really good teacher and a really cool dude,” says Cary. “He’s like my role model.”
Silva says teaching is more challenging than football ever was.
“So football all you have to do is wake up every day, work out and do what the coaches tell you to do. In school you got to motivate the young teenagers who are more interested in their social media outlets than math,” says Silva.
Silva is married and says his goal in the next five years is to become a father. And he says he wants to stay working in education, first as a teacher and eventually a school principal.
As for football, Silva says that’s all behind him now.
“I barely even watch football now. That may sound strange to you but I feel like I’ve been there, I’ve done that, mission accomplished now let’s move on to something more meaningful to me which is education.”