Zach Stewart is a fighter. He always has been.
His coach knows that about him, so he wasn't surprised when he got the phone call from him. Minutes after Stewart received his Tennessee offer, he slipped out to call Keith Henry, his high school coach.
“He called, walked out of the office at UT and he was so happy, and I’m so happy for him,” Henry. “But he said coach, we have one more thing to do. We’ve got to take care of a state championship at Coalfield. That just says numbers about him.”
The Yellow Jackets lost in the Class A state championship game last season, but the Scout three-star offensive lineman made sure they didn’t go down without leaving every ounce of sweat he could muster on the field.
Stewart’s work ethic, football intelligence and size endeared him to Tennessee coaches early, who snatched up the 6-4, 296-pound lineman’s talents on national signing day this February.
Because Coalfield has a roster under 20 players, Stewart was forced to play both sides of the ball and on special teams. Henry believes his former lineman is best suited to play offensive guard in the SEC, but his versatility in high school will surely help make the transition to a single position as a young player easier.
“Of course, being such a small school ... lots of our kids play both ways, play special teams. They still play old iron man football,” Henry said after the state championship loss. “That will be a bonus benefit for the University of Tennessee.”
Stewart will join Team 119 with a heavy heart, as his mother, Laura, passed away May 28. The Coalfield native will come to Knoxville in mourning, but Butch Jones and the rest of the team will welcome him while he heals from his recent loss.
Because they know he’s a fighter, too.
“Zach Stewart is very intelligent — a 4.0 student,” Henry said. “He’s very God-gifted with intelligence and physical ability. He comes from a great family and Zach truly cares about people. He has a great heart.”
InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this report.