Springing into action

CLEMSON - It's been a while since Tony Steward was healthy enough to play football in the spring.

Two ACL tears in as many years have prevented the former four-star signee from experiencing a spring that was free of crutches, bulky braces and rehabilitation.

ACL injury No. 1 occurred during his senior season at Pedro Menendez High School in Saint Augustine, Fla. No. 2 came almost a full year later during practice at Clemson, forcing him to sit out his first spring practice in Tigertown.

A junior with just over 100 career snaps to his name, Steward is in good health.

This spring, it's a matter of catching up, mentally. That, Steward said, will allow him to improve on the field.

"Physically, I guess, kind of just playing more aggressive since I've been back -- I haven't been playing as aggressive as I could play, or as I should play," he said. "I'm just trying to get that back, get that edge."

Steward insists that the missing edge isn't a result of a lack of confidence in his surgically repaired knees.

"Really, I think they only set me back, physically -- a little bit mentally," he said. "I was getting the mental reps, but it just sucked not being out on the field. I can't use that as an excuse. It set me back a little bit."

He added, "I don't know the defense as well as I want, to be completely sure of myself.

"I have to keep watching film, doing film study and keep learning what I have to do."

And understandably so.

Based on his own experiences, all Steward knew at the college game was what he learned several months earlier from Kevin Steele. Last spring, when his teammates were on the field learning Brent Venables' system, all Steward could do was watch.

Now, after a full-year of tutelage under Venables, Steward is competing with Spencer Shuey and Kellen Jones for the No. 1 spot at WILL. He's currently running No. 2 behind Shuey.

"[Venables] wants to just to see me understand the defense, to make calls, get everybody lined up, cut it loose on the field, play fast and play physical," Steward said.

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