Stewart backs Harvin on, off the field

Wide receivers coach George Stewart has dealt with controversial wide receivers before and he's convinced that Percy Harvin will be just fine as he matures. See what Stewart had to say about Harvin's abilities on the field and his feelings on him off the field.

Although the Vikings' selection of wide receiver Percy Harvin has been classified as one of the bigger boom-or-bust picks in the draft, receivers coach George Stewart didn't sound worried about the selection.

"I have no qualms with Percy Harvin. I think the guy will be very electric for our football team, but I also think he will be outstanding for our community too," Stewart said.

The Vikings had a number of people in the organization meet with Harvin, his family and his college coaches before they made the decision to draft the Florida receiver No. 22 overall. Vikings coach Brad Childress had a well-chronicled visit with Harvin and his family three days before the draft, but Stewart and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman also met Harvin prior to that.

Stewart said Harvin came away from those meetings as a "very classy guy."

In order to become more comfortable with what he would be getting on the field and off the field if Harvin was drafted, Stewart also met with Florida head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong "to get a better feel on Percy Harvin."

Stewart also said Harvin's positive test for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine wasn't a sticking point for the position coach.

"For me personally – I can't speak for this organization – but for me personally it wasn't a concern because we all make mistakes," Stewart said, echoing that refrain several times during an interview after the Vikings selected Harvin.

Harvin had several other red flags pop up regarding his character, including some dust-ups in high school that eventually had him barred from athletic competition. During his press conference after being drafted by the Vikings, Harvin admitted his mistakes and said he was hesitant to trust people when he was younger.

Stewart said he could relate.

"Like he said, he was an introverted young man. He was a non-trusting young man. I was the same way. I was introverted. I was non-trusting when I was growing up," Stewart said. "… I see a young man who's very similar to the way George Stewart was growing up at 20 years old."

Since then, Stewart has been known to forge good relationships with receivers who are sometimes viewed very differently by the public than they are by their position coach. Terrell Owens is one of the most well-known examples.

"T.O. did not have an issue coming out of school in terms of character. To me, to this day, he doesn't have a character issue," Stewart said. "Terrell speaks what he feels and I respect that. I respect him for that. In terms of off the field … there weren't any similarities (between Harvin and Owens) in that respect."

On the field, Stewart said the two receivers are quite different as well.

"Totally different athletes. Terrell was more raw, physical," said Stewart, who coached Owens with the San Francisco 49ers. "He had a lot of work at this particular point of his career. Percy is a thrill a minute. This guy is very electric. He was probably the most electric guy in the draft coming out. If you take away what we call ‘character issues,' he probably would have been a top-five pick.

"He does some things that we haven't had here from an explosive standpoint (and you) talk about the Wildcat situation. There are so many things that you can do with Percy Harvin athletically that we don't have here. Again, you talk about what Randy Moss brought to this football team years ago – true speed and the ability to make plays – this kid is going to make plays for us.

"… We have some weapons now that we didn't have a few years back."

Stewart mentioned Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe and Adrian Peterson, and the position coach believes Harvin can complement all of them well. His versatility might even allow the Vikings to use Harvin and Peterson in the backfield at the same time.

"Can I foresee that? Absolutely, but that's a decision our head coach has to make," Stewart said.

Stewart's role will be honing Harvin's skills on the field and helping him mature off the field as well, something with which he feels quite comfortable.

"In terms of pressure, no. Pressure's when you haven't done it before," Stewart said. "I've coached a lot of players in this league and Percy Harvin will be fine."

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