Last weekend Oak Ridge competed in the 15-16 Area Meet in Humble, TX. The Oak Ridge boys team, finished in seventh place with a team total of 42 points. Still it was a very successful day for the War Eagles as several individual runners and relay teams qualified for the Regional Meet in Waco, TX April 29-30.
Among those headed to Regionals is Oak Ridge’s 4 x400 team featuring 2017 outside linebacker Grant Stuard as the anchor.
Oak Ridge started the race in the middle of the pack, and by the time the baton ended in Stuard’s hand the War Eagles were in fourth place.
That wasn’t going to be good enough for the 6-0, 200 pound linebacker.
Stuard turned on the jets as they came around the first turn, positioning himself in third. Then as they came around the final turn, he accelerated into second and was right on the verge of overtaking first place, but ran out of track.
He may not have come in first, but his effort was a perfect representation of his athleticism and ultra-competitive nature.
That competitiveness and natural athleticism, has been attracting a lot of attention. Since picking up his first offer from SMU on Feb. 20, Stuard has received offers from eight other universities.
Staurd says going from none to nine offers in just two short months, took a little bit of getting used to.
“I had a lot of trouble staying humble with it all,” he said. “Getting this many offers is rare and so I had to really focus on staying humble and continuing to do what I was doing. I can’t get complacent. I have to keep working in the weight room and listening to my coaches, and trust the process.”
One of the big things you notice about Stuard, almost immediately, is his desire to do things the right way. You can tell from the way he thinks before speaking, the way he carries himself and supports his teammates, and in the way he points towards the sky after every race.
Stuard knows the significance of an offer and knows the potential each one holds for his future. He feels that weight, each one comes with and believes he owes it to each school considering him to keep working.
“A lot of guys start picking up offers but then get lazy,” he said. “Or they commit right away so they don’t have to keep working hard—that is something I can’t do. If any college has enough faith in me to offer them, I have to reciprocate and seriously consider them. No matter how big or how small a school is, I can’t take them out of the picture because if they had faith in me as a player, and want to invest that amount of money in me, than I have to respect that offer. It can’t be about just picking up offers. You need to find the right fit for you and that means taking every offer seriously. “
Before the regional meet, Stuard returned to SMU to see the Mustangs in action during their spring football game. The last time he visited, back in February, he didn’t get to see the players in action.
“This time I got to watch the position SMU wants me to play and it gave me a little confidence because I felt like I can play just as good as anyone out there,” Stuard said. “That gave me even more motivation to keep getting better while I’m still in high school so that next year if I were to come to SMU, I’d be ready to play and compete for that spot.”
That’s actually really important to Stuard. One of his goals is to play significant minutes as a true freshman, or even to possibly start.
“I know that SMU would give me that opportunity,” he said. “But it is on me whether I’m going to put in the work to take it or not. Other schools that are in the picture are looking at me as a red shirt because I have a smaller frame than a lot of linebackers. But SMU gave me the vibe that they want me here, to play now, and that I am an important guy to them. They’ve made me feel more important to them than any other program so far.”
As of right now, Stuard holds offers from Army, Bowling Green, Fresno State, Louisianna-Lafayette, McNeese State, Navy, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, and Toldeo. He plans on visiting as many of the schools as he possibly can, but isn’t sure when or if he’ll be able to make that happen. However he does plan to make good use of his trip to Waco for the Regional Meet.
“Well since we are going to regionals at Baylor, and their coaches have been communicating with me, I’ll probably go on a small unofficial visit after the meet,” he said. “Other than that we are just trying to figure out how to get with the schools that are further away—Bowling Green, Yale, Purdue, and Duke. I’ll probably plan more of that stuff out during the summer. Right now I have to just focus on school, keeping my grades together, and putting in work on the track.”