recovered four fumbles — taking two of those back for touchdowns. He was also considering Akron and Youngstown State.
ASHVILLE — Being challenged to become a better football player was what stuck out to Walter Stewart about the University of Cincinnati.
“I’ve been to a lot of camps and through all those things, but when I talked to (linebackers coach Tim) Hinton after I had a good year last season, he challenged me,” the Teays Valley High School senior said. “He said I should dominate and be able to do a lot of different things.
“That put a fire into my belly, and that’s what really made it special.”
Stewart gave a verbal commitment Monday to play football at the University of Cincinnati.
He was also considering Akron and Youngstown State.
“It’s really exciting to see what direction they’re heading in,” Stewart said. “I visited campus a few times and I really like it down there.
“Being in Cincinnati, it’s also closer to home. My family lives in Youngstown and my foster family lives here, so they can both come down and watch me play.”
The Bearcats are coming off a 9-3 season, including a 4-3 third place mark in the Big East Conference. Cincinnati is slated to play in the Papajohns.com Bowl later this month against Southern Mississippi.
Stewart, who was selected to the Ohio Division II second team defensive line, compiled 102 tackles, 22 of those for loss, 17 sacks, six caused fumbles and recovered four fumbles — taking two of those back for touchdowns.
“We had a lot of good players on defense,” Stewart said. “I was excited to play closer to the line this year after playing safety last season. I wanted to score real bad, because I never had scored before. I went after the football real hard to try and do that.
“My teammates are behind me getting to go to UC. If it wasn’t for them and us having a good season (Teays Valley finished at 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Mid-State League), I wouldn’t be getting the offers I am.”
The journey to landing a Division I scholarship started in the ninth grade for Stewart. After not playing football since the little league days in elementary school, he decided to go out for the team at Franklin Heights.
“I owe a lot to the Fields,” said Stewart about his foster family of Keith and Lynn Fields. “They provided a lot of support to me and got me back to playing football.”
Following his first two years at Franklin Heights, Stewart moved to Teays Valley, where he and Vikings head football coach Steve Evans first met.
“When I walked into the athletic director’s office and Mr. (Jim) Hayes introduced me to this 15-year old kid who was a sophomore, I looked up at him and did a double take,” Evans said. “His size caught my breath and I just said, ‘Welcome to Teays Valley.’
“What stands out about Walt is his ability to be a leader in the weight room, in the classroom and on the field. His teacher and bus drivers always say how polite and nice he is. He’s been here for two years, but he was elected as a captain of our football program, which says a lot about his leadership. He isn’t just a verbal leader, and wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t.”
With the process of choosing a school now behind him, Stewart is looking forward to working hard and try to play at Cincinnati when he’s a freshman.
“Coach Hinton said I need to work on my bench press and I want to get stronger in my upper body,” Stewart said. “My biggest concern is getting a little weight on me.
“I’d like to play as soon as I can, no matter if it’s special teams, defense or whatever. If I don’t play as a freshman, it’s no biggie, but I’d like to.”