When Jack Silvagni walked through the doors of the Carlton Football Club for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
After all, he is the son of Stephen, arguably the game’s greatest fullback, and the grandson of Sergio, a club legend after 236 games between 1958 and 1971.
But, as former Xavier College football coach Martin Heppell says, you wouldn’t know Silvagni was under any sort of pressure.
“Jack is a mature kid and you can probably tell that by the way he plays footy,” Martin told Aflplayers.com.au.
“He was just like anyone else. The whole thing about him is that he never brought that to the table. You weren’t coaching a Silvagni, you were coaching a kid who was 16 and 17. He was going through all the dramas that every 16 or 17-year-old kid was going through.
“Other people made a fair bit of it but we certainly never did, he was just another kid in the team.”
Silvagni was a calm and collected character, someone always willing to lend a hand even to those he knew very little about.
He wanted everyone to feel welcome.
“I think the best thing about Jack is he is inclusive and what I mean by that is when you play school boys footy in year 12, not always but some of them tend to keep their footy group and distance themselves,” Heppell explained.
“He was best friends with the Year 10’s, 11’s and 12’s, he included everyone around him. He was just humble.
“There was no arrogance attached to him, he was the perfect older brother to his two younger siblings.
“To be brutally honest, he is a better bloke than he is a footballer and I mean that as the highest compliment I can give to a person.”
The personality Jack showed was often on show for all to see, but Heppell believes that emotion being shown in football circles was most important.
“He should’ve been coaching instead of me because of how switched on he was,” he said.
“Jack was always passionate about how the team could improve and that just summed him up.
“He knew where he was coming from but his mindset every week was just ‘I’ll do the best that I can’.”
Heppell says he and his coaching staff always believed Silvagni had the talent to play at the top level but there was one moment which shone through during the pair’s two years together.
“You could tell from the get go he had the ability. The thing about Jack was he could play down back and he could play down forward,” Heppell recalls.
“One of the best moments was when we were playing Old Xavierians’ under-19s. Jack was in Year 11 at the time and Old Xavierians play a match against the first 18 from the school every year.
“The under-19s had some really big bodies and they always wanted to smash the schoolboys.
“We showed this footage to the kids where Jack was playing down forward and he came out of nowhere and did this chase down tackle and hammered one of their players.”
Now with 19 games under his belt, Silvagni has cemented his place in Carlton’s forward line since debuting in Round 15 last season.
The Round 13 Rising Star nominee became the fourth Blue to be nominated for the coveted award following his 13 disposals and two goals against Gold Coast.
And as Silvagni makes waves at the top level, Heppell is adamant the Blues have a great young person with natural footy IQ.
“Jack’s a ripping fella. He’s hanging out with Brendan Bolton so he doesn’t need any words of advice from me,” he said.
“He could probably work it all out for himself to be honest. He’s that switched on.”