University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Monroe Area High School
A classic overachiever, discipline has been instilled in his character by his mother, Tamara Tuitt-Bartlett, who serves as a deputy sheriff back home in Monroe. While Stephon was a freshman in high school, he once walked 10 miles to a workout session after his mother refused to let him attend, but the player felt he had a commitment to his team and made the "most of a bad situation," after his coaches had explained to him he had to attend as a requirement to make the team.
That discipline and work ethic allowed her son to mature quickly, both on and off the football field. Well-respected in the locker room, the quiet leader had to become more vocal on the gridiron this year, thanks to a departing graduation class from last season that saw quite a few first-time starters appear for the Irish on the defensive side of the ball in 2013.
Injuries also played a major factor in the Irish failing in their quest to get back to the BCS Championship Game. The team suffered a huge loss when Tuitt's line-mate on the front wall, nose guard Louis Nix III missed five of the team's final six games after he underwent knee surgery. Tuitt himself was not 100% last season, but felt that he needed to be on the field and mentor the large amount of replacement players, despite still struggling during the early schedule from off-season hernia surgery.
Through Notre Dame's first three games, all Tuitt had to show for a trio of starting assignments was four tackles combined. Before the surgery, he was averaging 3.5 tackles per game during his first two seasons at the school. The left defensive end refused to use the surgery as an excuse for his minimal contribution, but the coaching staff preached patience as their junior star rounded into shape, and he would reward them late in the season when other starters were sidelined.
"The surgery that he had has affected his back, it's affected his hip flexors," head coach Brian Kelly told reporters during his weekly teleconference in early October. "Some people dismiss it and say, 'You just had minor surgery.' It's affected a lot of things. This is a big man, and he's really struggled ... with back tightness. He missed a day of practice [last week] because his back locked up."
Tuitt had a big sophomore campaign in 2012. He led the Irish with 12 sacks, the second-most in a season by an Irish defender. He also added 47 tackles (24 solos), three forced fumbles, nine quarterback pressures and a blocked kick. But his production dropped off in the second half of the season, when he had only 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in the final six games, partly as a result of the hernia injury that required the offseason surgery.
Shortly after his coaches October 2013 press conference, Tuitt played well in an upset victory over Michigan State, with six tackles and a key fourth-quarter sack. For the season, though, he had yet to reach the quarterback. Before the season, Tuitt told reporters he was in good shape, had added weight and was ready for a big junior season. But the added weight and slow recovery from surgery seemed to have cut down on his quickness.
The second half of the schedule, when Nix was sidelined, was a complete reversal from the first half for Tuitt. He recorded 23 tackles with 2.5 sacks and five stops for loss in his last five appearances. Those numbers would see him close out what would be his final season at Notre Dame with a career-high 50 tackles, ranking sixth on the team. He also posted 7.5 sacks, nine stops behind the line of scrimmage and 13 QB pressures.
Tuitt was rated 38th nationally on Sports Illustrated list of top players during his senior season at Monroe Area High School and received Georgia Class 3A all-state first-team honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010. He was one of four Georgia players to be named to all-Southern team by the Orlando Sentinel, as a defensive end, but also performed at tight end.
Tuitt led Monroe High to an 11-2 record and a third-round appearance in the Georgia Class AAA state playoffs during his senior season, after the team had finished a combined 0-20 the previous two seasons. He received first-team all-Georgia Region 8-AAA accolades after he posted 56 tackles, 24 stops-for-loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered. He closed out his career by playing in U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio and in the Team USA vs. The World All-Star Game in Austin, Texas.
As a freshman at Notre Dame, Tuitt appeared in nine games, but forced his way into the starting lineup for three contests. Called by the coaching staff their "six-star recruit," the massive playmaker's eventually convinced his coaches what he could do on the field. That brief audition produced 30 tackles with a pair of sacks and five QB pressures. It would also earn him a starting job during his next two seasons, spanning 26 consecutive contests.
On January 5th, 2014, one week after Notre Dame defeated Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, Tuitt announced he would forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He spent the next month shedding some weight, arriving at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine close to his sophomore weight of 304 pounds. As a junior, he had played at 328 pounds, thanks to limited opportunities to work out during the 2013 offseason due to his hernia surgery.
Tuitt started 29-of-35 games at Notre Dame, including his final 26 at left defensive end and his first three starting assignments at left tackle…Finished with 127 tackles (59 solos), 21.5 sacks for minus 163 yards, 25.0 stops for losses of 176 yards and 27 quarter-back pressures…Caused four fumbles and recovered another that he advanced 77 yards for a touchdown…Deflected four passes, intercepted another in the end zone for a score and blocked one kick.