"It's crazy to think this is it," said Riccardo Stewart as he prepares for his last ever home game at Sun Devil stadium. "We have games after this, but it's definitely the last game we have coming out of the tunnel. It's a sad time, but at the same time it's a lot of fun. I'm happy that this senior class has an opportunity to do what no senior class has done since we've been here and that's win more than eight games."
While the safety admitted that the last five seasons seem like a blur, there were some periods, which seems to drag on forever. "The parts that go by slow are the parts at Camp Tontozona," he stated with a smile. "It seems that most of the time I've been here it's been at camp."
This week's game against Washington State is much more than a farewell to the ASU seniors, as the team will retire Pat Tillman's jersey at halftime. Stewart discussed the extra meaning Saturday's contest will have for him. "All of us are proud that he went to our school," Stewart remarked. "When hear your friends, family, people around the country say what a great guy Pat Tillman was, it's awesome to know that he's part of our family. He wore the same uniform, practiced on the same field, and played at the same stadium as we did."
"I met the guy two or three times," Stewart continued, "and he was a very intelligent guy.
I'm very proud that he's a Sun Devil and one of the best players to play college football. He's also one of the best human beings. Not everyone could do what he did on the football field and the battlefield. It's awesome that they will retire his number and it's definitely something that everyone should come and watch. It's cool that it's happening on senior day, and it will be very emotional for us."
It seems that Stewart's career has been intertwined with Andrew Walter's. Both members of the 2000 recruiting class formed a bond from day one and have emerged in the last couple of years as the respective leaders on offense and defense. The senior safety said that his most favorite Walter moment had nothing to do with the signal caller's ability to hurl the pigskin downfield. "In the Oregon game two years ago where he led us back to win, and also at North Carolina were awesome, " he recalled. "But the best thing I've seen Andrew do was against Washington our freshman year (2001). He wasn't even the starting quarterback, and they flexed him out at receiver. He de-cleated one of their corners and pointed at him (smile). So all those passes he threw, people already know about that. But not too many people know that he de-cleated someone (smile)."
In the last couple of seasons, Stewart was among the leaders in team tackles. This year, the safety played in only seven games, which coupled with a new three-linebacker scheme has led him to be only fourth on the tackle list with 49. "I'm definitely pleased with the way I'm playing," he exclaimed. "I could care less (about not getting as many tackles). As long as I'm healthy on the field contributing and we are winning, stats don't mean anything. Going into the season I knew I wasn't going to have as many tackles as I had in previous years. I got my first ever safety – I never tackled anyone in the end zone. I would love to get an interception this year…having a winning season - I can't complain right now. We're just trying to start something here and hopefully the younger guys pick it up. There's no reason why we shouldn't be a top team every year."
For all his vast and meaningful contributions in between the lines and off the field, Stewart remains humble as to what impact he has had on the team, even in the leadership department. "I never go into a season thinking I'll be a renaissance man," he quipped. "I just go with the flow. If there's something that needs to be said, I'll say it. This year I was more vocal, and that's just the way it has been." On Saturday, the maroon and gold faithful will have a chance for their voice to be heard and offer a hearty ‘thank you' for one of the finest players this team has seen in this young century.
Five Years in a Blink
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