A cut above the rest

When the 2008 football season kicked off, five Florida A&M University Rattler football players were named to the 2008 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Pre-season All-Star Team. Four games into the season, they are showing why they were honored.

Vernon Wilder, a 6-0, 248-pound, senior, middle linebacker, from Miami, Taj Jenkines, a 6-4, 225-pound, junior, tight end, from Jacksonville and Philip Sylvester, a 5-10, 185-pound, sophomore, tailback, from Marianna were first-team honorees.

Anthony Collins, a 6-3, 355-pound, junior offensive lineman from Miami and Curtis Holcomb, a 5-10, 170-pound, sophomore defensive back from Miami were named to the second team.

“It was an honor, it felt pretty good,” said Sylvester, who was the 2007 conference Rookie of the Year.

Wilder said there is more on his plate since being honored.

“Responsibilities come with being named a top player,” said Wilder, who was a first-team All-MEAC selection in 2006 and a second-team pick in 2007.

In order to be named to the All-MEAC team you have to be one of the top performers in the conference.

“We strive for excellence, we want more than just five,” said Jimmie Tyson, a second-year defensive assistant coach. “It helps a lot with the team, it shows that we do put out great players.”

Wilder has led the team in tackles the last two seasons. Even with all the recognition he has received he still has his own personal goals.

Wilder said two interceptions, Defensive Player of the Year, and get a championship are some of his goals this year.

Offensively, Sylvester has been battling an injury since the home opener against Alabama State, but coming off a 131 yard rushing performance and one touchdown, he feels like he is ready.

“I’m 100 percent,” Sylvester said.

The Rattler offense is ranked as the number one scoring offense in the conference.

“We’re having a lot of fun and playing our heart out,” Sylvester said.

Defensively, Wilder and Holcomb are playing big roles this season.

“Knowing how high the stakes are, they hold themselves at a higher expectation,” Tyson said.

Wilder is leading the conference with two forced fumbles and is ranked ninth in the conference with 16 solo tackles and five assists.

“I like to be challenged, I try to performe better every week,” Wilder said. “I work on my game everyday in practice.”

Holcomb is coming off with interceptions and is leading the conference with three interceptions. He is also rated as the conference’s number one pass defender with five break-ups.

Tyson, believes that a large part of the teams success can be attributed to the teams two defensive all-stars.

“They’re real important, their two of are best defensive players,” Tyson said.

Individual recognition is good but Sylvester has his eye set on bigger things.

“You forget about it, it’s just your name on piece a paper,” Sylvester said. “I want to play hard and reach are goal, a MEAC championship.”

The Rattlers are currently (3-1) going into Saturday’s game against South Carolina State University (3-2).