Just after being named Tennessee's Division I, Class 4A Mr. Football Back of the Year for the state, his Maryville High team staged a dramatic fourth quarter rally to win a state championship for a third straight year. Trailing 14-0 early until the Auburn verbal commitment caught a second quarter 18-yard touchdown pass, Maryville was still behind by 26-14 score with seven minutes left. However, the Rebels added 15 late points to win the title over Hillsboro, the team Maryville defeated a year earlier for the state crown by a 34-27 score.
"It was a very, very close game," Stewart tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "It was really nerve-wracking."
Stewart said that Hillsboro came into the game highly motivated after last year's narrow loss and notes that the Burros had a good read on just about everything the Rebels were trying to do on offense. However, some special plays helped change the momentum. A 49-yard reverse, flea-flicker touchdown pass cut the Hillsboro lead to 26-21.
Then, a special onsides kick play in the middle of the field was executed well and Maryville used the running of Stewart to move the ball down the field to set up the winning score and a 29-26 victory. "We kept our heads up," says Stewart, explaining his team's comeback. "They had a big lead on us late in the game, but we didn't let it get to us."
Stewart scored his 28th touchdown of the season in the state championship game and hit the 1,600 mark for rushing yards in 2002. Running inside and outside, Stewart picked up 1,430 yards on 156 carries with 21 touchdowns as a junior.
An honor student who was a standout at an Auburn football summer camp, Stewart says he enjoyed meeting some of his future teammates at the Mr. Football Awards ceremony in Nashville last week. Three Brentwood Academy players were among the honorees and that group included lineman King Dunlap Jr., punter Kody Bliss and kicker John Vaughn. Stewart says that he enjoyed meeting his future teammates. "We got to talk a while," he says.
Stewart and Dunlap left the awards ceremony with Mr. Football trophies. Commenting on his honor, Stewart says, "All that credit goes to all my teammates, especially the offensive line."
Tiger Ticket Extra: The next athletic endeavor for Stewart is track. He will be busy training for a host of events. He runs the 100, 200 and 400 and is on Maryville High's 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams. He also competes in the long jump, triple jump and high jump as well as the discus and hurdles. At the end of the season, he also competes in the decathlon. As a sophomore and junior, he finished fifth in the event at the state championships.
Stewart, who is up to 207 pounds on his six-foot-two frame, says that he is excited about entering college next summer. "I am very much looking forward to playing for Auburn."