Tony Steward's pressure cooker

CLEMSON - Tony Steward had a change of heart just days before his national signing day announcement on ESPN.

The hesitation wasn't in regard to whether or not Clemson, Florida State or UCLA would win his John Hancock. It was a result of an agreement he made months earlier.

Towards the end of the summer before Steward's senior year at Pedro Menendez High School in Saint Augustine, Fla., ESPN approached him about an appearance on the nationally televised signing day show.

"I kind of blindly committed to it," Steward said at the West End Zone on Monday, just days after making his debut for the Tigers.

"It was pretty good. It was a nice experience, to bring some exposure to the school."

A week before the announcement, second thoughts started to creep into his mind.

"I just felt a whole bunch of pressure. I just felt I probably shouldn't have done it, but I'm happy I did," Steward said.

Head coaches for each of the finalists received word the night before signing day. Even then, Steward wasn't certain about his choice.

"I want to say that I knew the day before... honestly, I can't say that I had my mind made up that morning," he said.

"I felt like I had a better opportunity here, for school and athletics," Steward said. (Roy Philpott)
Clemson, of course, was the winner.

"I felt like I had a better opportunity here, for school and athletics," Steward said.

In his first career game, Saturday's 43-19 win over Troy, Steward recorded two tackles. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound freshman played all 11 of his snaps at the WILL linebacker position.

He's currently second on the depth chart, behind Jonathan Willard.

Throughout the recruiting process, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele asked Steward which linebacker spot he preferred.

WILL was the position of choice.

"I told him it didn't really matter. I just felt that I was more confident at WILL, because I played more outside than I did inside, in high school," Steward said.

Though Steward admitted that his surgically repaired knee isn't quite 100 percent, he continues to trust the recovery.

"I think I can play a whole lot faster. I guess I've just got to get the confidence back," Steward said. "I've got it mainly back. I've just got to keep it consistent." Top Stories