NORMAN — Chanse Sylvie couldn’t help but stand out in his blue vest. With the Oklahoma safety’s shoulders rolling out the top of his sleeves, he had to have been one of the most physically imposing employees working for Walmart this summer.
If you recognized Sylvie at the store on Norman’s east side, you weren’t seeing things.
“I did that for just those three weeks [the team] had off. That's all it was,” Sylvie said. “I was just going there to get a little work in. It was just like an internship. I was working with them on my degree I got in political science.”
Sylvie’s competing to play at safety after recovering from an Achilles’ heel injury. He got healthy enough to dress out for the final three games of 2018, and even played special teams in the Orange Bowl season finale.
He'd already been expected to factor into OU’s secondary this fall as a redshirt junior. But defensive back Tre Norwood’s recent injury increases the likelihood Sylvie will see the field and makes his experience seem more valuable now.
No official word on Norwood’s injury has been announced, but the junior, who has spent time at every position in the secondary, was seen on crutches at Tuesday’s practice.
Sylvie hasn’t started in three years since arriving from Shreveport, Louisiana as an ESPN four-star recruit, but has appeared in 26 games with the Sooners. That should benefit a group that was already thin at safety to begin the year.
“It's imperative that our guys, on an individual basis, take stock in some of the moments they've been in, some of the stages that they've performed on,” Grinch said last week. “I think it's on them to kind of go back to those moments from a confidence standpoint and say, 'I've been in the arena.' The more guys that have been in it can be advantageous.”
Sylvie says it’s just been over the past month that he’s felt 100 percent healthy from his torn heel. Former Norman North star Nick Basquine, who has recovered from two Achilles tears, has been a guiding light during Sylvie’s rehab.
“This whole summer, we was working out together me and him, doing things to our Achilles, getting them better, just asking him tips here and there, 'what you do for this? what you do for that?’” Sylvie said. “I was always rooting for him. Seeing him just fight through it, not complain one bit and just keep going, it made me want to keep going. He's been a big inspiration, a big impact on me.”
Being healthy could make all the difference for someone like Sylvie as the defense tries to turn a new page. Grinch has opened up a number of starting jobs after OU ranked last in Division I defending the pass a year ago.
“Coach Grinch always preaches everybody gets the opportunity to play when you just run to the ball,” Sylvie said. “Full-out speed, full-out effort, you can't never be wrong. That's one thing I love.”
Sylvie’s mind is in two places. He remains focused on what life could be like after football. He graduated in three years with a minor in African-American studies and has been admitted to grad school.
“My goal is probably to go to the FBI, the CIA. That's always been a dream of mine,” Sylvie said. “I've always been a big ‘Criminal Minds’ person, and ‘Blacklist,’ I like that show.
“I really like accessing the mind and different theories that people have come up with over time, different situations and why things may happen around the community and just the way the world works.”