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Stewart craves Division I chance, gets it from Texas Tech

For former Carolina high school star, opportunity arrives year after 16-0 season

Posted: December 19, 2011 - 2:14am
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Austin Stewart started having second thoughts not longer after he signed with South Carolina State last year. Nothing against the Bulldogs, but Stewart believed he had a future at a level higher than the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.

Now he’ll get a chance to prove it.

After securing a release from his original school, then spending a season in junior college, Stewart will transfer to Texas Tech in January. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety committed to the Red Raiders on Sunday after a weekend visit.

Stewart is from Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. The Red Raiders are recruiting cornerback Kasseim Everett from the same school.

“They were looking at him and they needed safeties, and that’s when I popped up,” Stewart said. “They found me — a 6-2, 200 safety. They looked at my tape and fell in love. That’s how it started.”

Stewart met NCAA freshman academic requirements coming out of high school, which is why he can transfer up from the juco ranks after one semester without having to graduate. He still has 41/2 years to play three seasons.

In 2010, he made nine interceptions and 74 tackles for Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., a Charlotte suburb. The team went 16-0 and won state in North Carolina’s Class 4AA — the highest level.

Last December, Stewart picked off two passes in the championship game at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium and returned one 93 yards for a touchdown.

A seven-minute highlight tape on YouTube shows Stewart playing a center-field style safety, making an array of interceptions and runbacks and swooping up to the line of scrimmage to cut down running backs.

“I was so frustrated I didn’t get any big offers off that,” he said. “I just waited patiently, kept praying and it all worked out.”

Stewart said he had scholarship offers this fall from SMU, Western Michigan, Kent State, Massachusetts, Northern Colorado, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Florida International. He narrowed it down to SMU and Tech, then visited both campuses the last two weekends.

He said a Tech coach encouraged him not to commit to the Mustangs before he’d been to Lubbock.

“I enjoyed the college atmosphere,” he said. “The coaches were great, all of them. I loved the program, loved the facilities. The chancellor (Kent Hance), I got to meet him and he was a great guy. He’s the funniest man alive.

“The team welcomed me in, coaches were cool. I can’t wait to come in in January and do what I have to do.”

Stewart was reassigned to Butler before his senior year after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district redrew boundaries for the 2010-11 school year. He had attended East Mecklenburg High School before that. Transferring before his senior year might have hurt his recruitment.

This season at Pierce, Stewart was credited with 26 tackles and returned 20 kickoffs for a 22.3-yard average. That was after he asked for and received his release from South Carolina State, with whom he signed last February.

“I called them like two months later, saying ‘I’m not wanting to attend anymore. Y’all have a great program,’” Stewart said. “I was nice about it. I just wanted to see if I could play (at a higher level).

“In my heart, I thought I could go big out of high school. I took a chance, worked hard and it paid off for me.”


The following players have made commitments to sign with Texas Tech. Mid-term transfers can sign financial aid agreement starting Wednesday. The national signing period for spring graduates begins Feb. 1.
Clayton Nicholas, 6-3, 210, QB, Abilene Cooper; Quinton White, 5-8, 188, RB, College Station A&M Consolidated; Keenon Ward, 5-10, 180, IR, Snyder; Sadale Foster, 5-8, 190, IR-KR, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside North HS; Javon Bell, 6-0, 184, WR, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault HS; Reginald Davis, 6-1, 188, WR, Tenaha; Dominique Wheeler, 6-2, 175, WR, Crockett; Jared Kaster, 6-4, 268, C, Altair Rice Consolidated; Rashad Fortenberry, 6-5, 283, OT, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Franklinton (La.) Bowling Green HS; Trey Keenan, 6-6, 270, OT, Argyle; Michael Starts, 6-4, 280, OT-DL, Waco La Vega; Lee Adams, 6-3, 265, DE, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS; Desimon Green, 6-4, 230, DE, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy/McKeesport, Penn. HS; Chase Robison, 6-4, 225, DE, Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers; J.J. Bynum, 6-3, 280, DT, College Station A&M Consolidated; Anthony Smith, 5-11, 288, DT, Spring Westfield; Micah Awe, 6-0, 196, LB, Mansfield Summit; Ryan Flannigan, 6-1, 200, LB, Sugar Land Marshall; Will Smith, 6-3, 220, OLB, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame HS; Kris Williams, 6-2, 202, LB, Dallas Bryan Adams; Chris Payne, 5-10, 190, LB-S, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Columbia (S.C.) HS; La’Darius Newbold, 6-1, 180, CB, Lancaster; Austin Stewart, 6-2, 200, FS, Pierce (Calif.) College/Matthews (N.C.) Butler HS.

To comment on this story:
don.williams@lubbockonline.com   766-8734
george.watson@lubbockonline.com   766-2166

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Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to All from the Nuclear Winter in Lubbock.


Great news!

Thanks once again to Chancellor Hance for helping out. I've read numerous times where he goes out of his way to help out and these kids love him. His time helping recruit these athletes, and his personal recruitment of top honor students as well, has a huge impact on advancing Texas Tech. Thanks again. Welcome to Lubbock, Austin.



Do you work for Spaets?

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