Hawks Discover Gem at Camp

The Iowa Hawkeyes have a long, successful history of identifying position changes for their players. Something like that happened this week at Iowa's football camp where they converted a strong side linebacker to defensive tackle. Now, it appears Chicago Morgan Park's Xzavier Stewart may be on his way to receiving a scholarship offer.

When it came to the defensive side of the ball, there seemed to be one name everyone raved about regarding "who was the top performer at camp?"

That name was Chicago, Illinois (Morgan Park) defensive tackle Xzavier Stewart, who had played strong side linebacker his entire high school career until he made his way to Iowa's camp.

Stewart arrived at Iowa's camp on Sunday night, but did not test. He waited until Monday morning to showcase his abilities, and by the end of the evening, he was playing a new position.

"They approached me during the last session on Monday about playing some defensive tackle," said Stewart, who is six-foot-one, 265-pounds. "They thought I had good ability at strong side backer, but they wanted to see what I could do with my hand on the ground."

What Stewart eventually did was put on a show that reportedly had many of the coaches, including Kirk Ferentz and Norm Parker, making stops to see how well he was handling the change.

"Iowa told me they liked my speed, my ability to use my hands, and felt that I had the heart to play the position for 48 minutes," Stewart stated.

When I spoke with Stewart on Wednesday afternoon as he was traveling back to Chicago, it was easy to sense the excitement in his voice.

"I'd encourage anyone to attend Iowa's camp because I know they showed me that I can be an exciting player at defensive tackle," said Stewart, whose teammate cornerback Marcus Thomas camped at Iowa over a week ago. "I have a whole new potential to my game now, that I never knew I had before. Iowa is an excellent school that helps players overcome obstacles, and achieve things they never knew they could."

One obstacle Stewart faced in moving to defensive tackle during his time at camp was that he had limited experience at the position in hopes of displaying enough talent and ability to earn a scholarship offer.

The transition was eased by the tutelage of Hawkeye defensive line coach Ron Aiken.

"I had gone to Illinois's camp two weeks before, and played a little bit at defensive tackle, but it was during the mop-up time at the end, so I didn't get much coaching," Stewart said.

"At Iowa, since I had two days to play the position, I really received a lot of coaching and learned a lot. It was really helpful to learn all the hand movements to use to keep the offensive lineman's hands off your shoulder pads and help you get behind him."

Now, the remaining obstacle Stewart will face in fulfilling his dreams of playing division one football are improving his academics.

"I still need to raise my GPA up a few points, but I scored a 20 on the ACT," Stewart stated.

"When Coach Ferentz talked to me, he made sure to tell me to keep working hard in the classroom. He said they took notice of the improvements I've made in the past year. He said that I was an exciting player, who was fun to watch, and Iowa would be getting in contact with me."

Stewart will return to Illinois's camp tomorrow, and also plans to attend Michigan's camp later this month. He noted that he has already received a written scholarship offer from Northern Illinois.

As far as the Hawkeyes go, Stewart believes there is a chance they could offer, too.

"I know Iowa was keeping a close eye on me during all of the camp, and I thought I was easily the top performer they had. I'm just excited to now know what I can do, and I hopes its good enough for them to offer," Stewart concluded.

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