|by David Hood|
Part of that, by his own admission, is tearing up opposing offenses.
Steward came to Clemson as one of the most highly-regarded recruits in Clemson history, and with good reason. Following his senior season, he was a USA Today First-Team All-American, and was rated as the No. 13 player overall and No. 1 outside linebacker in the nation by Rivals. He also won the high school version of the Dick Butkus Award in 2010 as the best linebacker in the nation.
However, he suffered a torn ACL late in his senior season at Pedro Menendez High School, and the coaching staff at Clemson decided he had healed enough to let him attempt to play his freshman season in 2011. Five games and 36 snaps later, he tore his ACL during practice, and his freshman season was lost.
Steward has now played a grand total of 276 snaps during his Clemson career, and even won Special Teams Player of the Year for his efforts last season, but he wants more. And this might be the season he gets to show he can still make plays.
In other words, he feels like this is his time.
“It’s been a pretty tough journey,” Steward told TigerNet after Monday’s practice. “But you have to weather the storm, you know? Whether this time is my time or somebody else’s time, I am just lucky to be here and enjoying my opportunity. I want to make the most of it. Hopefully, I can make it my time.”
Steward has had to not only deal with the injury factor during his short career, but has also had to deal with a backup, something he wasn’t used to in high school. Now, the injuries have healed and he is ready to put the frustration of being a bench player in the past.
“I don’t feel any affects at all from my previous knee injuries. Your legs get tired from time time, but nothing from injury is there,” he said. “It is completely gone. There is no pain in turning, cutting, changing direction or anything. It is playing football. Being a backup, you are always going to be a little frustrated with your playing time. But I don’t think it’s been anything too terribly tough. I’ve been able to deal with it.”
He then said that he wants his Clemson career to be remembered for more than just being a good special teams player.
“Definitely. I came here to be more than just a special teams player and to contribute more to the defense,” he said. “Hopefully this is the year I can take that step. I’ve stepped up as a leader and hopefully I can continue that and be what my team needs me to be. Every aspect of my game needs to improve. I think everything needs work and there is room for improvement. I just think I have to continue to work on the details, the little things like technique.”
Steward and Stephone Anthony were two of the big names in the 2011 recruiting class, and the expectation was that the two would be a terror on opposing offense. That hasn’t happened as Anthony has logged over 1200 more snaps than his classmate.
That, hopefully, is about to change, and Steward can’t wait to finally take the field beside Anthony.
“Man, it is awesome. I have been waiting a long time to play beside Stephone,” he said. “I am excited to get out there on the field next to him and just let it loose and tear up offenses. This is my last go-around, and I want to make the most of it. I just have to have a go-for-broke attitude and mentality and do whatever it takes. Whether that is coming in and do extra film training or do things outside of practice. I mean, time is running out. You don’t have an entire lifetime.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org