"Ultimately I had good schools willing to offer me but I didn't qualify for signing day," the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Stewart said. "My guidance counselor told me I could get where I wanted to be through the JUCO (junior college) route. I researched it around the time Cam Newton had so much success at Auburn and I decided I wanted to do it. Out of high school I signed with Arizona Western College (Yuma, AZ). It went well for a while, but I decided to leave there after a couple things happened. When I was sitting at home in May, a lot of JUCO schools came out to me. I got a report from Highland about an offer, they're in what I call the ‘SEC' of JUCO and I have a good relationship with the coach."
Stewart accepted his offer and arrived at Highland this summer. As for his ECU offer, Stewart received it through the grapevine.
"I forgot the coach's name who offered," he said. "I have a guy who helps with my recruiting and keeps me on track. He texted me about a school wanting to offer and it was ECU. I got an email from one of the coaches and talked to him through my recruiter. I heard (ECU) was a great program and knew of Chris Johnson. I also remember my coaches showing me a motivational video with a former player (Giovanni Ruffin)."
The fall season is getting underway and Stewart is beginning to focus on learning his role at Highland. He has yet to visit ECU, but plans on taking a visit during one of his bye weeks this season.
Arkansas State and ECU are the only two FBS programs to offer Stewart, but he's been in contact with other schools.
"I got an offer from Abilene Christian they just joined Division-1 again," Stewart said. "I've also been in contact with Kentucky. I have an offer pending from them and they want to know if I can graduate in December. Iowa State could have an offer coming soon; they're very interested in me. I've been in contact with Baylor since March and also Western Kentucky."
Stewart plays defensive tackle, but prides himself in his versatility on the defense.
"I don't consider myself a set position," he said. "I can be in a 3-4, the nose tackle, a five technique between the tackles, a three or a one technique. In my high school years I played in variations of defenses and I saw 3-4 and 4-3 at Arizona Western. I can play mostly every position on the line; I just love getting after the quarterback."
The JUCO route can be long, drawn out and complicated. Stewart will have to get the grades and prove himself on the field to get where he wants.
He has an idea in mind of how the process could play out.
"I don't know if I'll be able to graduate by December but May for sure," he said. "Hopefully the season goes well and I pick up more offers. I'll take visits in the winter and decide by signing day depending on my offers. I'm really interested in ECU I have heard a lot about them from friends. I like Iowa State and Baylor too; the Big 12 is a passing conference so I could get after the quarterback. Oklahoma State wanted to offer, but didn't have the grades in high school."