Brad Stewart loves football, but he also excels at and enjoys baseball and basketball. In football, he was the state Class AA offensive player of the year at Benedictine in Savannah, but he also was an all-region basketball player and has entertained the possibility of playing baseball for coach Danny Hall.
“I love ’em all,” he said. Picking one as a favorite “is a hard decision.”
Football, though, is his ticket. He'll play wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets starting in the fall.
“I did feel like it chose me a little bit,” Stewart said, “especially (because) I had the most opportunities there. The big thing for me was education. You can’t turn down a full ride for an education at a place like Georgia Tech. It was a true blessing when I got the call (for a scholarship offer).”
Stewart’s interest in education is hardly lip service. At Benedictine, a prestigious military school, Stewart said he finished third in his class with a 4.45 GPA and took “seven or eight” AP classes. He recalled the lowest grade he received was an A-. He is interested in pursuing an engineering degree. Had Tech not offered, Stewart would have played football at Yale.
Those who follow recruiting likely know Stewart’s story. Coach Paul Johnson’s interest in Stewart heated up late in the recruiting cycle after he led Benedictine to the Class AA state title. Despite having wide receiver prospects Harland Howell, Christian Philpott and Dorian Walker already committed, Johnson flew down to Savannah to visit with Stewart and his family and at first made a grayshirt offer – meaning Stewart could enroll in January. On the day before signing day, Johnson upgraded to a spot in the 2015 class when space opened up, and Stewart accepted.
Part of Tech’s interest undoubtedly includes Stewart’s ball skills. Stewart made a leaping touchdown reception in the state title game that has taken its place in school lore. (You can see it at 1:10 in the video below.) Stewart gives some credit to his experience running down fly balls as a center fielder. It may sound familiar – former Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter said one reason he was so strong on deep balls was his time spent playing outfield, including at Tech before switching to football.
“Playing baseball all my life really helps,” Stewart said.
Stewart will begin preseason practice as one of three or four first-year freshmen – Harland Howell , Christian Philpott and possibly Dorian Walker are the others – who will have a clear opportunity for a spot in the wide receiver rotation. Of the four wide receivers in the Tech two-deep at the end of spring, only starter Micheal Summers has significant time in the offense.
Stewart’s goal for the first year is to do the best I can do.
“I’m going to be satisfied with wherever I get put, and put in good work, and hopefully next year do even better,” he said.
1. Something he intended to bring to campus: a necklace with a gold cross that his father Brandon received as a graduation present and then gave to his wife Wendy when they married. Stewart’s mother gave it to him when he began high school. Stewart said he tries to never take it off.
2. A little more on Stewart’s baseball credentials: In the regular season, he hit .369 for Benedictine. As a member of the Chain Savannah travel team, he was a 2015 honorable mention in the Southeast region for the All-America team chosen by Perfect Game, a recruiting website.
3. Stewart’s weight is the same as his listed weight on signing day, 190 pounds, but he said that by following the workout plan given to him by Tech’s strength and conditioning staff, “I lost some of my bad weight and gained some good weight.”
4. He will wear No. 83, which was worn last year by walk-on wide receiver Matt Serpico.
5. Stewart was a two-time winner of the Ashley Dearing Award, an honor given to the most versatile Savannah athlete who plays football, basketball and a spring sport. He is just the second two-time winner of the award in its 62-year history. He was also the first Benedictine student to win the award since 2001, when Tech A-backs coach Lamar Owens won it.
Owens was a celebrated athlete at the school before playing quarterback at Navy. I asked Stewart if Owens was still a big deal at Benedictine.
“Yes, sir, he is,” Stewart said. “His name’s all throughout our trophy cases.”
6. Owens, coincidentally, was Stewart’s principal recruiter.
“He was awesome,” Stewart said. “He’s just been such a good guy to me, always truthful with me, through the whole process. I felt close to him, too, because we both went to my high school. He was very successful at BC and we just had that connection right there.”
(After speaking with all but one of the freshmen who reported last week, I happened to see Owens on report day that a number of players he recruited had spoken well of him. His response: “You sound surprised.”)
7. Stewart had a mature perspective on the NFL success of wide receiver predecessors at Tech. “”It’s an awesome feeling to be going to a program like that, but they put in the work, so they deserve it,” he said. “Now I’ve got to do the same.”
New in ’15