University of New Hampshire (UNH) first-year defensive end Josiah Silver has been named to the 2021 Jerry Rice Award Watch List. The annual award honors the best first-year player in Division I’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).  

The honor is in its 11th season and is named after NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice who played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State University. 

Former winners of this award include Los Angeles Rams wideout Cooper Kupp out of Eastern Washington, Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds from Fordham and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance formerly of North Dakota State. 

Silver has been a stabilizing force on a Wildcat defense that has shown lapses at points amid a four-game losing streak. Through seven games this season Silver leads the defense with 6.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss (TFL). His 39.0 total tackles come in at fourth in the team ranks. 

The defensive end is also tied for second in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in sacks and tied for third in TFL. 

Silver, who stands 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, says he only had one college offer ahead of his senior year at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va. Fordham was the only school to extend him an offer before he racked up 27 sacks during his senior campaign in 2019. 

UNH assistant coach Ed Borden reached out to Silver in December of 2019 and was just as confused why the defensive end hadn’t received as much attention to that point. The Wildcats proceeded to bring him in on an official visit in January of 2020 which is when Silver committed to New Hampshire. 

He explained that other schools like James Madison had reached out, but none ever pulled the trigger on extending an offer to the Virginia native. UNH, however, put the ball in Silver’s court and said he’d have a chance to compete for snaps as soon as he arrived. 

“A lot of schools just wanted me to come on a partial [scholarship] or as a walk-on but I believed in myself more than that,” Silver explained. 

While he did play in the lone spring game on March 5 against UAlbany, the fall 2021 season has been Silver’s true welcome to college football. 

“Last year was a big help for me,” said Silver. “COVID let me get the chance to come in, learn the playbook and things like that to get to where I’m at now.” 

UNH defensive coordinator John Lyons echoed a similar sentiment during the team’s bye week. 

“I think as he gets more playing time, gets a little more confidence, gets more of an understanding and can play without thinking all the time, I think he’s really going to develop into a really good player,” said Lyons. 

Wildcats’ head coach Sean McDonnell has described Silver as a “pleasant surprise” on his defensive line following the departure of Brian Carter in the spring. In 2019 Carter only tallied 3.0 sacks, 5.0 TFL and 23.0 tackles through 11 games. Silver is close to doubling each of those categories through just seven games. 

The winner of the Jerry Rice Award will not be decided until the conclusion of the regular season when a 50-member, national media panel will decide on a winner. 

Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson