Stewart a Jack-of-All-Trades

ARLINGTON, Va. --- Running back, safety, and punt returner will be M.J. Stewart's primary positions this fall for Yorktown High School. However, opponents are bound to see the UNC pledge line up all over the field on any given Friday night.

"With a player of his ability, we try to get him the ball in as many situations as we can," Yorktown head coach Bruce Hanson said.

As a junior, Stewart, a 6-foot, 175-pounder, rushed for 1,847 yards on 191 carries, intercepted ten passes and made 52 tackles on defense, and averaged over 30 yards on 18 punt returns. He also accumulated 323 yards in receptions and scored 32 total touchdowns.

While Stewart isn't the first FBS athlete to come through Yorktown's football program, Hanson credits the coaching Stewart's father provided his son for the success.

"He was coached extremely well when he was in youth leagues and that was all his dad," Hanson said. "Fundamentally, he's super, super sound on either side of the ball. There's no wasted motion, everything is fundamentally correct, he's a student of the game, and I think he has some natural ability as well."

However, it's Stewart's intangible attributes that stand out to Hanson.

"The thing that really impresses you if you coach him is he's a great guy, hard worker, and a leader," Hanson said.

UNC assistant coach Walt Bell recruited Stewart to play cornerback for the Tar Heels.

"For us, we're going to play him at safety, because we don't have a lot of guys like him – most high schools aren't going to have many guys like M.J. – and safety allows him to have a bigger impact on defense," Hanson said. "But he'll play some corner, too."

The opponent and situation will dictate where Stewart actually lines up for a particular play.

"Obviously if [the opponent] has a receiver that's killing our defensive backs, they'll put me on him," Stewart said.

Stewart doesn't believe making a full time switch to cornerback in college will be a difficult transition.

"Even though I don't play corner full time in games, every day [in practice] I still work out at corner," Stewart said. "So I still have that corner background."

Stewart is one of four prospects from northern Virginia to have committed to UNC. Caleb Henderson (Burke) and Alexandria Williams teammates Malik Carney and Jeremiah Clarke are the other three. Since committing in mid July, Stewart has been working on developing a bond with his fellow Virginia prepsters and future teammates.

"We're just friends trying to mesh together because we're going to be together for four years," Stewart said. "We're trying to start something now so that when we go down there we'll all know somebody and have somebody we know we can lean on." Stewart has spent his entire prep career in Virginia, but he isn't originally from the Old Dominion State. When he was about eight years old, he moved from Philadelphia and still considers that his hometown. That background has caused some friendly fraction between some in the area.

"I love Philadelphia [sports] teams," Stewart said. "Philadelphia Eagles, we're going to open up this year with a whooping for the [Washington] Redskins. There are too many Redskins fans around here. There are not a lot of Eagles fans, so I hear a lot trash talk."

Stewart also has a lot of confidence in his favorite college football team.

"I have big expectations for North Carolina," Stewart said. "I'm going to be watching all the games that will be broadcasted and I'm going to try to come to some of the games, too.

"The game I'm looking forward to is the South Carolina-North Carolina game. I want to see how we play against South Carolina. I know the coaching staff has a few schemes they're going to run to make them successful."

Stewart is hoping to get down to Chapel Hill before his football season begins on Aug. 29 and anticipates attending two or three games this fall. His father's schedule will determine Stewart's actual travel schedule.

M.J. Stewart Profile

Inside Carolina Top Stories