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Patient Steward ready to finally make his mark at Clemson

  by - Senior Writer - Monday, March 11, 2013 7:16 PM

CLEMSON – Clemson fans have waited for what seems like two long years for a healthy Tony StewardTony Steward
So. Linebacker
#7 6-1, 235
Hastings, FL

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to be out on the field at linebacker during crunch times, a wait that Steward himself said has taught him patience.

Steward suffered a torn ACL during his senior season of high school, and when he arrived at Clemson, he was still not 100 percent. He was also up to 250 pounds. During a practice midway through his freshman season – just as Steward was finally beginning to shed the excess weight and feel healthy again – he tore the ACL in his other knee.

During 2012, he played limited snaps on defense and instead watched starter Tig Willard at the WILL linebacker spot, played on special teams, and used that newfound patience to bide his time.

Now, the Florida native is healthy, weighs a solid 235 pounds, and is in contention for the starting WILL spot.

“When I got to Clemson I was at about 250, just because of the first ACL and not being able to move around too much,” Steward said after Monday’s spring practice. “When Coach [Brent] Venables got here, he asked me to get down to about 230. Now I feel good. I am at 100 percent, and I have no problems. I just have to go out and continue to play.”

Steward was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school, and Clemson fans have clamored for No. 7 to be on the field. This season, he hopes that his wish and the wishes of the fans come true.

He then said that his famous burst – what former defensive coordinator Kevin SteeleKevin Steele
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
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called jets – is back.

“This is really the first time since I’ve been here that I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I think it [the burst] is back. I just have to continue to improve, be more aggressive and just release it. Just let it go.”

Steward said he learned a lot from watching Willard last season.

“I feel like I got my feet wet in the system last season,” he said. “Now I have a foundation in the system and I just have to keep plugging along. The knees are good and I haven’t had any trouble with them. From Tig, I learned that you just have to play with your eyes. It really isn’t anything different than I’ve played before. I kind of played it in high school, but this is different from high school, and you have to play with more discipline.”

Steward said he also looks across the room during linebacker meetings, and he sees Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Jr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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, Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
So. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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, Kellen JonesKellen Jones
So. Linebacker
#52 6-1, 215
Houston, TX

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, Justin ParkerJustin Parker
Jr. Linebacker
#8 6-1, 235
Port Royal, SC

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, B.J. GoodsonB.J. Goodson
RS So. Linebacker
#44 6-1, 240
Timmonsville, SC

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, T.J. BurrellT.J. Burrell
Fr. Linebacker
#41 5-11, 215
Goose Creek, SC

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and Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian
RS Jr. Linebacker
#34 6-2, 225
Lake View, SC

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, and gets excited about the possibilities for the season.

“We look at that every day. We are pretty excited about our group,” he said. “We just have to see what happens.”

In the meantime, he continues to learn, and be patient as he works his way into a starting role.

“For this season, I Just set goals for myself,” he said. “I want to learn the defense, learn to play hard and play physical, and just continue to do what I have to do.”

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