When news broke earlier in the week that Cincinnati defensive end Walter Stewart would not only be out for the season, but more than likely never play football again, it came as a huge shock to the Cincinnati Bearcats family.
Stewart was not only the best player on the team and somebody with first-round NFL talent, but he was also the vocal team leader.
Even though he will probably never play again, as it looks right now, the future is still very bright for Stewart.
The fifth-year senior was a three-year starter and a stalwart along the defensive line. He had already totaled five sacks on the season before being injured on the fourth play of the Fordham game Oct. 13.
The injury was originally diagnosed as an upper body injury, but on Monday it was revealed that Stewart was born without a posterior c1 arch in his neck. It was also discovered that he had an acute fracture of the front part of the arch.
Even though he may never play again, head coach Butch Jones has already offered him a spot on his coaching staff.
Jones has nothing but good things to say about Stewart, calling him the heart and soul of the team and a leader like nobody he has ever coached.
Even though Stewart was born without a posterior c1 arch, he was born with a little something extra when it comes to the leadership department.
While he likely would have had a very successful NFL career, this injury could be a blessing in disguise for Stewart, as he now has the opportunity to go into coaching if he so desires.
Judging by his actions on the sidelines that might be just what he is born to do. Since his injury, these leadership qualities have become more evident. He holds the attention of his teammates and they rally around him.
The Bearcats were 5-0 before the injury to Stewart and 0-2 since he went down. That is no coincidence, as Stewart could do a little bit of everything from the defensive end position. Simply put, he was a game-changer for Cincinnati.
All is not lost for Stewart and the Bearcats as the Big East title is still within reach. If that is going to happen, Cincinnati is going to have to turn it around on the field and Stewart is going to have to continue what he is doing off it.
Whether he believes it or not, the impact he can make the rest of the season and in years to come off the field will be greater than he could ever imagine.
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