Brendan Stewart signs with SEMO

Brendan Stewart signs with SEMO

By Daniel Winningham
Carlinville High School senior Brendan Stewart plans to take his football skills to Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo. later this year. With his parents alongside, Stewart inked a national letter of intent after school Feb. 6 to play next season for the Redhawks.

The final decision came down to SEMO and Truman State, a Division II school in Kirksville, Mo., according to Stewart.

SEMO just felt like the best situation, Stewart said.

“When I went down there for the visit, I felt (like I) fit there and that’s where I wanted to spend the next four years. They have what I want to study, physical therapy,” Stewart said.

In mid-December Stewart took a visit to SEMO. During the two-day trip, Stewart toured the school’s stadium and workout facilities, met with faculty and also took part in a panel discussion with current members of the football team.

Since his visit in December, Stewart has been in contact with SEMO assistant head coach Tim McGuire.

Though Stewart played both offense and  defense and special teams for the Cavaliers, the focus at the collegiate level will be on running back. Practice for the 2013 campaign begins in August, though Stewart said he’ll probably get acclimated with the program and began studying game film much sooner.

While there may be a tendency to not give players from rural schools or lower football classes chances at scholarships, Stewart is happy with where he wound up.

“I kind of took that as motivation,” he said. “A lot of the recruiters there told me a lot of the small-town guys get overlooked and I just kind of saw that as an opportunity and motivation to work harder, to get where I’m at.”

Stewart, the oldest of Jeff and Danette Stewart’s three children, began playing football in seventh grade.

Initially, he started playing soccer and he didn’t take part in JFL competition during fifth or sixth grade.

“My dad wouldn’t let me play, I’m glad he did though,” Stewart said.

To this day, Stewart isn’t sure why his dad didn’t let him play football right away, adding he could have possibly been worried about injuries.

“Pretty much all of my friends played football, and I just wanted to try something new, just to see if I liked it,” Stewart said. “I ended up really liking it.”

Stewart helped the Cavaliers to a 9-2 finish in 2012, and says he’ll miss competing at CHS.

“I’m going to miss going out there on Saturdays, watching film with the team, all the practices and stuff, we worked so hard,” Stewart said.

While he accomplished a great deal individually — 83 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in a CHS uniform plus All-State recognition last fall — Stewart said the focus was on the team’s success.

From Stewart’s sophomore through senior seasons, Carlinville finished with an overall record of 24-8 and lost just twice at home, to Greenville in 2011 and Pana in 2012.

The Cavaliers’ 2012 season ended with a 50-49 overtime playoff loss at Casey-Westfield, the eventual runner-up in IHSA Class 2A.

The Warriors’ converted a two-point conversion on their first possession of overtime, turning a possible 49-48 CHS victory into the one-point home win, putting an end to Stewart’s high school career.

Stewart will get the chance later this year to compete in a high school all-star game prior to starting at SEMO.

Other potential landing spots to play in college for Stewart were McKendree University in Lebanon, Harding University in Searcy, Ark. and Lindenwood University in Belleville.

Once SEMO was his choice, Stewart said he contacted the coaches at schools he would not be attending.

CHS head football coach Chad Easterday said Stewart’s successes at CHS and commitment to play at the collegiate level should serve as motivation for others still in high school.

“We talked before about his leadership and his commitment to football, and I think this adds that stamp on the program that says, ‘Hey, look, we can do this, athletes can do this here at Carlinville, at a smaller school.’ He’s just proof that that’s capable of happening and hopefully that’s motivation for other kids.”