The 6-foot, 232-pound linebacker from Saint Augustine, Fla. said he's ready to pick up where he left off last October.
"I feel like I've been out for enough time," Steward said. "Come the season time, it'll be about eight months. That's longer than I had with my first ACL. I've been able to build up both knees. I feel like I'm good to go. But if anything comes up, I'm sure that I'll be able to sit out the year."
It's been a long 20-plus months for Steward.
In December of his senior year at Pedro Menendez High School, he tore the ACL in his left knee. Despite the injury, he remained a highly sought after prospect in the class of 2011.
Two months later, Clemson edged out Florida State in one of the tightest recruiting battles of the season.
After playing 36 snaps in five games as a freshman for the Tigers, Steward tore the ACL in his right knee. ACL No. 2 went out in practice during a punt team drill.
"Physically, it's tougher than the first time," Steward said. "Emotionally, [the second tear] didn't really do anything to me. It sucked not being able to play.
"With the physical part, obviously, it's just a long process. It takes time. You've got to be on it every day, so that was probably the toughest thing."
Steward believes he was able to salvage a little bit of good out of another bad situation.
"Obviously, you never want to sit out, but just sitting out kind of helped me -- sitting back and understanding everything and just seeing plays that should be made," he said. "You see it from a different angle. Instead of being on the field, when you're off the field, you see everything, and see what you should do and what you can do and what you shouldn't do."
Unable to work on the field with new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Steward studied his way through spring ball.
"I think I picked up on it really well," Steward said." I think my only downfall was that I couldn't get any reps with it."
Good news was passed his way in May. That's when doctors cleared him as a full participant in all workouts.
"I guess, pretty much when the summer started, I felt pretty good about it," Steward said. "I was doing everything with the team. I wasn't holding back from anything.
He added, "It was just good to get on my feet and start doing everything."
Despite the full clearance, Steward admitted that he's still working to regain his speed.
"It's not completely back, but it's back. I'm still getting there," he said.
Before the summer began, Steward tipped the scales at 242. At Venables' request, he dropped a few pounds. Now, Steward checks in at 232.
"I feel a lot better and I feel like I'm moving better," Steward said.
Ready to bounce back
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