HUNTINGTON - Five years ago, Fermin Silva came to Huntington as a high-schooler from Miami, Florida, and loved Marshall's football program. He loved it so much so that he and high school teammate Marquis Couch committed to Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday.
A few days later, Silva thought he had rushed his commitment and ended up committing to Florida International University - his hometown school and a place that several Miami Central teammates were attending.
Going into 2018, Silva thought that he would again meet Marshall on the field as an opponent, but football fate had different plans as an Achilles injury ended what should have been his senior campaign.
When the NCAA granted Silva a sixth year following the injury, it re-opened an opportunity that Silva had declined to take in high school - joining Marshall's football program. This time, he would not let opportunity pass him by.
Now, Silva is readying for his final year - this one in Huntington - after working back from the Achilles injury all summer.
"It still hasn't hit me yet," Silva said. "By the first game, it will, but it's crazy. It's amazing because this is an opportunity for me. In high school, I was committed here, so I just feel like everything happens for a reason. I can't wait to get back at it and put full pads on. It's been almost a year."
On Monday, Silva and his teammates took the next step toward preparing for the 2019 season when they got into "Herd gear," helmets and shoulder pads.
While full contact does not come until Wednesday, contact was a welcome sight for Silva, who endured an eight-month rehab from his injury to be in the position to play football in 2019.
"I don't think there are words," Silva said. "It's all I think about. Me and Couch talk about it every day that I haven't played football since September (2018). I'm just hungry. That's one of the most humbling experiences I've been through. I will never take this game for granted. The next time I'm on that field, it's full-go for me, and I can't wait."
Silva visited Marshall back in spring, visiting with Holliday and the defensive staff while getting a feel for what it would be like with the Herd.
The one thing that stuck out to him is how many guys that he already knew, due to Holliday's presence in the Miami area with recruits.
"Doc and the coaching staff brought me in and treated me like family, like I'd been here all four years, and that played a big role," Silva said. "Knowing that I was going somewhere for only one year, I wanted to be somewhere that was going to feel like home. This was the best place for me."
Couch's presence adds comfort, which was evidenced as they took part in Fan Day festivities on Sunday afternoon. Everywhere the two players went, they were going together, posing for pictures with fans and talking to everyone about the connection.
There is no one happier to see Silva in a Marshall uniform than Couch, who joked that now they don't have to trash-talk each other during game week.
"In high school, we were on the same team talking to people across the line of scrimmage," Couch said. "We had that animosity, that friendly fire for a few years, and it was fun because of bragging rights. Now, we are going to be yelling at other teams together. It's going to be old times. I remember in high school, Ferm would tell me, 'Meet me in the backfield.' And now, it's going to be fun seeing my brother go back there and make that play again."
While the scenario presents itself as fun for both Couch and Silva, the preseason camp is all business for Silva, who is looking to regain the form that made him one of the top defensive players in Conference USA in 2017. During his junior season with the Panthers, Silva tallied 50 tackles with 14 for loss, one of the top figures in C-USA. Of those 14 tackles for loss, seven were sacks and he added another six quarterback hurries, which made him one of the top "havoc" guys in the league.
It may be in a different uniform, but Silva's hope is to have his game at a similar level and leave with a Conference USA championship.
Holliday said that Silva is a guy who could figure to be a key piece in a championship run.
"Silva is a guy who has had a great summer here," Holliday said. "I've liked everything I've seen about him. I like his leadership - what he's done as far as leadership is concerned. He knew Couch from the get-go because they played together in high school and he knew a lot of our players that were on our team, so he's fit in at this point. We'll see how it goes, but I like what I've seen to this point."