Stewart Makes Receivers' Grades

While fans hope Troy Williamson can rebound and Sidney Rice proves to be a productive rookie, the wide receivers themselves are expressing tremendous appreciation for George Stewart, their new position coach. See what some of the wide receivers had to say about Stewart's track record, his personality and his coaching style.

When Mike Tomlin was hired as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, Vikings coach Brad Childress was forced to replace his defensive coordinator. But Childress wasn't forced to find a new coach for the team's wide receivers, yet he did – and his players are giving George Stewart rave reviews.

"You can talk to Coach Stewart about anything, not just about football," said rookie wide receiver Chandler Williams, a seventh-round draft choice who is trying to make the jump from Florida International to the National Football League. "If you have problems at home or women problems, any problems you have, he's not just a football coach. He said we can call him at 4 o'clock in the morning if we're going over our playbook and need to know something. Actually, Sidney (Rice) called him at about 2:30 and he answered the phone, so I mean Coach Stewart, I think he's probably the best receivers coach I've ever had. I haven't called him because I know he's probably sleeping. He works hard out here, so I'll save it for the morning."

Talking with a number of the wide receivers, especially younger ones, in some cases they are looking for a mentor as much as they are a coach.

Fifth-round draft choice Aundrae Allison can appreciate Stewart's personality.

"I see so much in him. I just thanked him today for being on me the way he (does) and teaching me so much these early weeks that I've been here so far," Allison said last month. "I know that he's been known as one of the top five wide receiver coaches in the NFL. I just feel I've been blessed to be in this position and be coached by a guy like him. His resume speaks for itself."

But it's not just rookies who appreciate Stewart's approach to coaching. Free-agent acquisition Cortez Hankton is going into his fifth season in the league and he, too, speaks highly of Stewart without prompting.

"We have a young group and he's coached the best out there. I tell him all the time, this is my fifth year in the league and this is the first time I feel like I'm actually being coached," Hankton said of Stewart, who has coached under Lou Holtz at the University of Minnesota and Notre Dame, as well as being an assistant for Chuck Noll, George Seifert, Sam Wyche and Dan Reeves. "I love Coach Stewart for everything he does for the group and also myself."

Stewart's personal approach with his receivers isn't the only aspect of his interaction that has him as a suddenly popular guy among the coaching staff. He has the resume that gains respect from the players.

Stewart has coached with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1989-91, special teams), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1992-95, special teams and tight ends), San Francisco (1996-99, special teams; and 2000-02, wide receivers) and Atlanta Falcons (2003-06, wide receivers). It was in San Francisco that Stewart earned acclaim for working with Terrell Owens during his formative years. Owens averaged 97 receptions and earned Pro Bowl berths in each season while Stewart was coaching him.

His teams have also enjoyed success. In addition to coaching on a playoff team in San Francisco, his Pittsburgh and Atlanta teams were playoff squads when he was with them. In fact, during six of Stewart's 11 seasons coaching in the NFL, his teams have had at least 10 wins.

With the Vikings' young receivers, however, it seems Stewart gains credibility for the name players he was worked with.

"Coming into the NFL, T.O. was my favorite receiver, along with legends like Jerry Rice. (Stewart) was able to coach those guys in their early days," Allison said. "I just feel like knowing that in itself, it just speaks volumes. It gives me the idea that if I listen to him and just basically soak in the stuff the veterans say, I'll be one of those guys in the coming years."

For the veteran Hankton, it is more about what Stewart is teaching rather than who he has coached in the past. According to Hankton, it's Stewart's instruction in the finer points of the position that make him a well-respected coach among his pupils.

"Paying attention to the fine details, from route-running to catching the ball – it's just a whole bunch of stuff. Coming out of your breaks, he does it all," Hankton said. "He had my respect before because of who he's coached and what he's done in the past, and just his NFL experience. But now even more so because I've actually worked with him."

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