Stewart's NFL career cresting with Atlanta Falcons

Vanderbilt football has produced a number of NFL linebackers recently, but none has enjoyed success like Matt Stewart. A third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, Stewart is preparing for his fourth season with the Falcons and his third as a starter. He took time out recently to chat with VandyMania about his reunion with another ex-Commodore linebacker who joins the Falcons this fall, Jamie Duncan; and about playing on a team with superstar QB Michael Vick. (Part 1 of 2)


VandyMania: Matt, you are now entering your fourth season with the Falcons, and the Falcons are redoing their defense for this season under new head coach Jim Mora. What is that going to mean for you? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Matt Stewart: It's actually neither, really. Last year we were playing a 3-4, with four linebackers, which was actually what we ran at Vanderbilt the last two years I was there. So I was very comfortable with it. But we're going to be changing to a 4-3, and I'll be the starting strongside linebacker. It's really not going to be a whole lot different. It's not a big change for me. I still feel very comfortable with it.

VM: We Vanderbilt fans were very excited to hear that (former Vanderbilt linebacker) Jamie Duncan had been picked up by the Falcons and was going to be your teammate this fall. How well did you know Jamie? Did your paths cross at Vanderbilt?

Matt: Yeah, they did, actually. For one year. His last year was my freshman year. So I guess it's not really fair to say I knew him well, because you know how it is. When you're a senior, and you've got a new freshman coming in, they always like to razz the freshmen a little bit more. I didn't know him too well, but I always knew how good he was. I was lucky and fortunate to see all these good guys coming through, like Jamie, and Antony Jordan and Corey Chavous. So I was there one year with that really good defense, the last year that Duncan was there [1997]. So I was fortunate to be with them one year.

VM: Have you renewed your relationship with Jamie then? And tell us how he's fitting in with the team so far.

Matt: He's doing very well. It was a really pleasant surprise to get to see him when he came in the first day, because I didn't know he was going to be there until I saw the locker that said Jamie Duncan on it. He's fitting in very well. He's playing middle linebacker. He's picked up everything really quick. He's going to be a great addition. I was really pleased to see that we picked him up.

VM: What would you say about his chances for playing time this season?

Matt: He's playing behind Chris Draft, who's started the last couple of years. As far as how the playing time will shake out this year, you just never know, with injuries, and all the things that happen in camp.

VM: You're a teammate of Michael Vick, which I would guess is a little bit like being on the same team as Michael Jordan. What's it like to have a guy like that on your team? And how well have you gotten to know him?

Matt: I don't really know him that well. It's kind of a different thing. Offense and defense really don't get together a whole lot. As far as being on the same team, it's amazing to watch him some times. Getting to see him come to work every day is really something. You just watch him and wonder, is he a freak, or what? The way he just flicks his wrist, and the football goes 60 yards. Or it's watching him on a sprint-out, just dodging people. It's awesome being on a team with him, but like you said, it's like being on a team with Michael Jordan. Everybody wants to know about him and what he's up to. It gets kind of crazy.

In this photo from a 2003 Atlanta Falcons practice, linebacker Matt Stewart (52) puts the pressure on star quarterback Michael Vick (7).
(Mary Ann Chastain / AP)


In Part II of VandyMania's interview with Matt Stewart, the former Commodore talks about becoming a father... his closest friends from his Vanderbilt days... and the prognosis for the 2004 Falcons, who should get back a healthy Michael Vick. Top Stories