Daily photo by Deangelo McDaniel|
Playing right tackle for the Tennessee Titans, Lawrence County High graduate David Stewart keeps Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Robert Mathis, a former Alabama A&M player, off quarterback Vince Young.
in the NFL
Lawrence County's Stewart holds the line for Tennessee Titans
By Deangelo McDaniel and Mike Wetzel
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com· 340-2469
NASHVILLE — The contents of his locker reflect the personality and his work ethic.
A pair of dirty boots, ragged blue jeans, a faded blue T-shirt and a worn Remington hunting cap are items you might not expect to find in a National Football League locker.
But, if you ever have met David Stewart, that may not come as a surprise. Even though he's a starter for the NFL's Tennessee Titans, he still lives back home in Lawrence County during the offseason, and his interests haven't changed much since he played for the LCHS Red Devils.
"When he's not on the football field, he's hunting, fishing or spending time with his wife (Cheryl)," Titans offensive line coach Mike Munchak said.
At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, "Big Country," a nickname Stewart earned while a student at Lawrence County High, is a mammoth offensive lineman whose NFL potential is limitless, Munchak said.
Yes, that's possible, Munchak said.
The best right tackle in the NFL?
That also is possible, said Munchak, an NFL Hall of Famer and nine-time Pro Bowl lineman.
It's OK for Munchak to promote Stewart. But don't expect the self-described farm boy to say too much about himself, or for that matter, anything else.
For 60 minutes on Sundays, Stewart is a violent man playing a violent game, and he makes no apology for that. But as quick as he turns on the personality to play in the NFL, he turns it off in the locker room.
"We didn't know he could talk for a long time," fellow lineman Michael Roos said. "But when he gets on the field, he is a different person."
Added Titans starting quarterback Vince Young: "He's just Big Country, and we love him. He may not say much, but he does his job on the field."
Munchak laughed when asked about Stewart's presence in the clubhouse.
"I think some of the other players are tickled that he is now talking," Munchak said. "Big Country doesn't say much and now that he's getting to play more, he's actually talking more. A few of the guys have commented to me, they are glad Country is talking. He's now yelling out 'switch' when he sees the defense change a scheme."
Munchak added he wished the team "had a few more" like Stewart.
Stewart, who is in the second year of a three-year contract that will pay him more than $1 million, understands that his off-the-field personality is in sharp contrast to the violent nature of the NFL.
"But, I'm just me," he said matter of factly. "I'm living a dream and I'm going to enjoy it as long as I can."
That dream and Stewart's road to the NFL started on his parents' lawn. Born the second son to Benny and Kathy Stewart, he was playing with a football as soon as he was old enough to walk.
Despite his talents as an athlete, his duties on the family's farm dominated much of his childhood. While his classmates may have been at the movies or on a date, Stewart was working with cattle and chickens.
When Stewart was a high school junior, then-Lawrence County High coach Tim Gillespie said, colleges started noticing "the big boy" in the line.
Stewart played offensive and defensive tackle back then.
In two seasons, he recorded 120 tackles, 28 sacks and earned first-team all-state in 1999.
He signed with Mississippi State and redshirted as a freshman.
In 41 career games with the Bulldogs, Stewart started 38 times, including 35 straight to end his college career.
"I've always wanted to play in the NFL, but I didn't know what would happened after college," Stewart said.
"When I went to the (scouting) combines and played in the Senior Bowl, I thought I had a good chance," Stewart added.
He watched the first day of the 2005 NFL draft "because I knew a lot of the guys in the draft."
On the second day of the draft, Stewart stayed closer to the telephone. Finally, he got the call he had dreamed about.
"Tennessee called and asked if I wanted to be a Titan," Stewart said.
He was the Titans' second pick in the fourth round (113th pick overall) and one of three linemen the team selected in the 2005 draft.
Stewart is the highest NFL draft pick from Lawrence County since the then-Cleveland Browns drafted Antonio Langham from Alabama in the first round of the 1994 draft.
"I went where I was projected to go and I was pleased with that," he said.
Because of an injury, Stewart was inactive the 2005 season.
"His entire rookie season was lost because of that broken hand," Munchak said. "But David has made great strides this year. He has great work ethics. He had a strong offseason. We like his long arms. He's got great reach; that's something you can't teach."
Head coach Jeff Fisher said Stewart's preseason work impressed the staff.
"When Jacob (Bell) got moved to the left side, David stepped up when we called on him," Fisher said. "He had a great camp, and we knew he would be ready when we put him in. We like the chemistry on the line. It is improving each week."
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow had similar thoughts about Stewart.
"We're very, very happy to have him blocking for us," he said. "He's a second-year guy, and it is scary how good this kid can be. We see him getting better and better."
You understand how important Stewart is to the team when you look at the Titans' play calling Sunday against Indianapolis.
The first six running plays went right, behind Stewart and guard Benji Olson, a nine-year pro. Munchak said that shows the team's confidence in Stewart's development.
"With Big Country and Benji over there, they provide a good push for our runners. Not many guys work together like those two," Munchak said. "David is getting better every week."
Stewart doesn't let the praise faze him. He knows that playing football in the NFL is a job and that he has a lot of room for improvement.
"This is what I do for a living and I have to work to get better," he said following the Titans' 20-17 win over the Colts.
Munchak said he is working on Stewart's footwork and "use of his eyes."
"Right tackle is the spot for David," he said. "He's a young kid with a bright, bright future there. He has the ability, and is on the path to be an All-Pro. It is up to him."
David Stewart at a glance
Played defensive and offensive tackle at Lawrence County, making all-state as a senior in 1999 when he helped the Red Devils to a 9-2 record and the first round of the state playoffs.
Played at MississippiState during 2000-04. He redshirted his first season in 2000 and then played in six games in 2001, starting three. Started every game during 2002-04, giving him 38 collegiate starts.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.
Sat out the 2005 season with a broken hand, but has played in 10 games this season, starting each time.
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