Family Put Bruin on the Right Track


Jeremy Silverman’s strength on the field is only matched by
his strength of character. A shot put and discus thrower for UCLA, the
21-year-old student athlete has a kind, grounded quality.

Silverman grew up in Annville, Penn., a town with one
stoplight and a gas station. As a member of the only Jewish family at a very
small high school, Silverman bore witness to some anti-Semitic attitudes.
Still, he celebrated the Jewish holidays.

“Passover and Chanukah were my favorites because they seemed
to bring the family together,” Silverman said.

Silverman is extremely close to his father, Robert, who
flies cross-country to watch his son compete in eight to 10 meets a year.

“He’s amazing, he’s so supportive,” said Silverman, who notes
that track parents who live in California don’t attend as many events. “I hope
someday to be as good of a father as he is to me.”

Silverman began throwing at age 8.

“It was a family thing,” Silverman said. “My older brother
and sister were doing it, so I decided to try it. It was just for fun, but I
ended up being pretty good.”

It may have started as a just another fun activity, but
throwing came to play an important role in Silverman’s adolescence.

“It sounds cheesy, but track and field changed my life,”
said Silverman, who weighed 320 pounds after his freshman year of high school.
“You know how high school kids can be; there was a lot of social pressure on me
to lose the weight.”

Motivated by his sport, he spent three months on the Atkins
diet and dropped 65 pounds. When his weight crept up to 280 his junior year,
Silverman lost another 50 pounds with a low-calorie diet and a high-cardio
workout.

“Throwing was my inspiration. I lost 100 pounds between my
freshman and senior years, and people looked at me differently,” said
Silverman, who is now 6-foot-3, 257 pounds. “I not only looked better, but I
saw positive results on the field.”

In his senior year, Silverman broke the Pennsylvania high
school shot put record, became the state shot put and discus champion, and was
ranked fourth in the nation in his sport.

Silverman dreamed of attending UCLA. “It was the palace of
throwing and the coach, Art Venegas, was the throwing guru,” he said.

But after a mediocre season his junior year of high school,
Silverman signed a letter of intent with Virginia Tech. Before Silverman’s
college orientation, the Virginia Tech coach announced he was leaving, which
gave Silverman a window to be re-recruited. Based on his stellar senior year
performance, UCLA came knocking.

“As soon as I met Art and saw the school, I knew I wanted to
be here. It was fate,” said Silverman, who placed 13th overall at the 2003 NCAA
Championships.

A psychobiology major, Silverman works hard to juggle his
academic and athletic ambitions. Track and field is a year-round sport.
Silverman competes in indoor and outdoor meets and practices from 2-6 p.m., five days a week. His rigorous practice schedule often conflicts with required
major classes and professors’ office hours. He pre-enrolls to ensure a spot in
morning classes and takes required three-hour lab courses over the summer.

“It’s hard to stay on top of the curve, especially during
finals week,” said Silverman, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and
attend dental school.

“I’m working toward throwing after college,” said Silverman,
who called the Olympics his pie in the sky, “but there has to be something
after sports, something to take me through the rest of my life.”

Silverman can be seen competing April
8-10 at UCLA’s second annual Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational.
For ticket information, go to