Silencing his critics, walk-on Stewart proves his worth

September 16, 2009


By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

With the loss of last year’s All-American wide receiver Jamarko Simmons due to graduation, a new player wearing the No. 27 jersey seeks to make an impact for Western Michigan University’s football team this season.

Vernon Stewart, a sophomore walk-on, is intent on becoming a true threat from the strong safety position. After redshirting in the 2007 season and appearing in only five special teams snaps in 2008 against Northern Illinois University, Stewart feels that this could be his year to finally accomplish his goals while silencing his critics.

“It was always a dream of mine [to walk-on] and people always told me that I couldn’t do it so I feel like I gotta prove people wrong and then prove it to myself,” Stewart said.

Stewart immediately showed his determination to succeed from the time he was allowed to participate in the initial team activities. Upon the completion the spring season, he led all Broncos in the annual “Brown & Gold Game” with 11 tackles, including tackles for loss and a pass break up.

This performance carried over onto the start of this season where he played impressively against the University of Michigan in the Broncos opening contest.
Registering five total tackles, assisting on three and piling up two solos, he quickly showed that he was worthy of playing a substantial amount of time in games.

“Part of the best part of this journey was getting to go through the tunnel in the Big House and to get some [playing time] and finally step on that field,” Stewart said.
“I just try to make plays every time that I step out on the field and try to distinguish myself from the other players as much as I can, every chance that I get.”

In the beginning, Stewart acknowledges that the road was tough but he gives some credit to his close relatives and friends to assisting him with keeping his mind focused on what he wanted to eventually do.

Rising from the constant struggles of trying to impress his peers on the team was no easy challenge either. Making it all the more impressive that he has become acclimated into the team’s tight brotherhood.

“If you watch how the kids on football team react to him, he’s one of the favorites out there because they know he’s a walk-on and he doesn’t have to be out here, he’s out here for really the true love of this football game and his teammates,” said Bill Cubit WMU head coach.
“He wants to be out there and he wants to be good and he’ll do everything you ask him to do and he’s got talent too and that also helps.”

This approach has proved to be successful not only amongst his teammates but of WMU’s coaching staff as well.

“He just works his butt off and he doesn’t say anything and everybody in that locker room respects him,” Cubit added.
“To us, he’s not a walk-on, he’s a member of the football team and I don’t know what we’d do without the kid.

“He’s getting a lot of plays as it is with special teams and he’s a valuable member in the defense, he’s in that core group of that nickel, dime and safety package.”

As the Broncos get set to take on the Miami University of Ohio this Saturday for their home opener, look for Stewart to keep making an impact while living out his dream.

*click on the pic to view this post at the Western Herald’s website!


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