Saturday night marked the third game of the 2005 season. For several of the Bearcats who were part of the Class of 2005, it marked their first or even third game making plays and being part of the team. But while those on the field played, one member of their class sat in the stands and watched, knowing he could have been making plays also.
When the Class of 2005 was announced, Coach Dantonio spoke highly of receiver/defensive back Derrick Stewart and defensive end Curtis Smith. With plans of playing several freshmen, the Bearcats staff was very excited about the two players who many felt were the best in the class. But college football is more then just making plays on the field. Each athlete must finish their academic requirements and meet NCAA standards to accept and compete in college.
When preseason practice started, Derrick Stewart took his place with the other freshmen who signed in his class. But just hours into his first day, Stewart learned his college career would have to take a different path. Coming up short of the required NCAA academic numbers, Stewart would be forced to leave the team and make a choice about his future.
Curtis Smith learned his fate before preseason camp started. The defensive standout kind of knew he may have to make a choice when the time came and he didn't meet NCAA guidelines. While holding out hope of making the needed numbers, Smith keeps working as if he would report and be part of the Bearcats defense this fall. But as expected, Smith came up short and would be forced to think about how to go about his academic and football career.
While the young Bearcats learned more about themselves on the field Saturday night, Stewart has already learned more about himself in what many would take as a major setback. But instead of sulking, Stewart spoke about his goals of working hard in class and on his own in the weight room during this time away from football. "I'm going to work hard in class and in the weight room on my own this year, I'll be ready when I'm allowed to be part of the team. When asked if he's seen Curtis Smith, Stewart had the following to say. "Yea, Curtis is going to be in class here at UC and we'll work together and be ready to make UC one of the best teams in the Big East and in college football."
When asked about being a Bearcat, Stewart was excited and spoke about how several players he knows are now looking at UC instead of other programs. "No player needs to leave Ohio now. Look around and you will see that UC will have great facilities for football when all the construction is finished. I know of several players who were looking at other programs who now are looking at UC. Curtis and I want to start a pipeline of players from where were from." Said Stewart as the Bearcats retook the field after halftime.
With both players in Cincinnati and enrolling in UC, Bearcat fans can rest assure the team will be that much stronger next fall as both players take their place among the young Bearcats who are battling this year.