We live in a country that enjoys liberties allowing us the freedom to realize dreams. The people of Cuba do not enjoy such freedoms and have been suppressed for over half a century by a strict communist regime. The Human Rights Watch believes Cubans are denied many basic rights including free speech, privacy and due process of law among several others.
This seems like such a farfetched reality to students living in a sheltered bubble at a private Christian university like UMHB. But the fact is, a student stands among the student body who has overcome the adversity of the world he was born into.
Silvio Diaz, EXSS major and defensive tackle for the Cru, is thriving and realizing the American dream in an age when it has been thought to be a myth.
Diaz was born to Osmany Diaz and Leydy Borges in Santa Clara, Cuba, a large city in northern Cuba. Growing up, Silvio showed he was a natural born athlete.
He played soccer for a few years before taking up one of the country’s most celebrated sports, boxing. Silvio boxed for several years and quickly surpassed his peers, seizing two national titles.
“I boxed for five years, and I was the champion of Cuba in my weight class in the 11-12 year-old category,” he said.
After winning his second title at the age of 12, Silvio, his parents and his little brother Osmany Javier, would receive news that would change the course of his life.
Diaz and his family had applied for a special visa program. In 2004 they were approved and immigrated to the U.S.
They arrived first in Buffalo, N.Y., where Silvio seamlessly continued to train on his boxing. Six months in, work pulled them farther south to Leander, Texas.
There, Silvio had nowhere to train for boxing and turned to soccer to satisfy his thirst for sports in middle school.
Upon arriving in high school, two years after entering the country, his teammates on the soccer team told him he had the build for football. Though Silvio’s father wished him to continue to box, he would make his way to the gridiron.
After a record-setting career at Leander High School, Diaz went from being a foreigner to the sport to knowing the ins and outs of a defensive lineman. Silvio interested several collegiate programs including Abilene Christian University, Virginia Tech, Air Force Academy and the University of Texas. However, due to the location and the school’s winning record, he would eventually commit to UMHB.
The Cuban native has made quite a bit of noise in the Crusader football program these past three seasons.
Silvio started 9 of 13 games as a freshman and accounted for one third of the team’s sacks as he tied the single-season sack record.
Two weeks ago against Texas Lutheran, Diaz broke the UMHB career sack record, set at 19.0 by 2004 graduate Keith Zunker. Against the Bulldogs, number 98 recorded two sacks, pushing him over the previous record of 19 and set him at 20, only halfway through his junior season.
“(Breaking the record) makes me feel proud of my teammates and coaches,” Silvio said. “…because without them, I couldn’t have achieved that.”
Averaging a little more than a sack per game, Silvio is on track to beat the single season sack record as well.
“The thing that makes Silvio such a great player is that he works at it,” Head Coach Pete Fredenburg said, “I mean he comes to practice, and he’s always at a high energy level and he always … puts a lot of pressure on himself to perform well.”
Silvio’s family members have been huge supporters of his career in the sport he has come to love.
Since joining the Cru three seasons ago, the Diaz family has yet to miss a single home game and have attended most local away games.
His father especially has taken much pride in what Silvio has accomplished as an athlete and believes that he sets a great example for Hispanics everywhere.