MHS's Stewart commits to James Madison
Jan 14, 2013 (Menafn - The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --A lifelong dream became reality Sunday morning for Morgantown High receiver Blaine Stewart.
Stewart, a senior who helped lead the Mohigans to the Class AAA state semifinals this season, verbally committed to play football for James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Va.
"It's definitely a dream come true," Stewart said. "The opportunity to play college football and go to a school like James Madison, it's a blessing and I'm fortunate and thankful for the opportunity to play there and get an education for the next four or five years at JMU."
Stewart considered walking on at Duke, Wake Forest, Ohio University, William & Mary, Akron, and Richmond before accepting a scholarship to JMU on the last day of his official visit, which began Friday.
"I just got a great feel for the program," Stewart said, explaining he had also attended a football camp at JMU and the Dukes' game against William & Mary, on Oct. 13. "This time, getting to meet the players and coaches and my host was awesome. It was all just icing on the cake."
He plans to sign on national signing day, on Feb. 6.
"It's been a long process and it's been fun but I'm glad to get it out of the way and know where I'm headed," he said.
Stewart, who was recruited as a receiver, made 41 catches for 612 yards and six touchdowns this season. He also had 104 return yards, and served as MHS's PAT and field goal holder, punt long snapper and backup quarterback.
"They said I had a good allaround feel for the game, good hands and I'm one those guys that can come in and make an impact anywhere on the field and make the most of my opportunity and better James Madison's offense," he said.
MHS head coach John Bowers, who called Stewart the Mohigans' MVP this season, said he will be a great fit in the Dukes' program.
"He's a snapper, a holder and a gifted receiver and he will do all those things potentially for them," MHS head coach John Bowers said. "He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and versatility for them and he'll find his way on the field pretty quickly."
Then-JMU offensive coordinator Jeff Durden began Stewart's recruitment, but receivers coach and JMU head coach Mickey Matthew's son, Clayton Matthews, took over the process when Durden was fired in December.
Stewart, who plans to study business, said the switch did not affect his decision.
"I had a good relationship with coach Durden but I know college football is a business and things change and I feel comfortable with the school," he said. "I'm going to JMU for the school and the academics and to play football, not just for one or two coaches."
Stewart, who said he is grateful to Bowers and the MHS coaching staff for their role in his success at MHS, is already familiar with his new coaching staff.
Mickey Matthews was a colleague and friend of Stewart's father and former WVU football coach from 2007-'10, Bill Stewart, who died in May. Matthews traveled to Morgantown to attend Stewart's funeral.
Matthews is the winningest head coach in JMU history, with a 96-61 record. During Matthews' 13 seasons, the Dukes won a Division 1-AA NCAA national championship in 2004 and have made five other playoff appearances. JMU was 7-4, and 5-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. The Dukes lost to WVU, 42-12. They also faced the Mountaineers during JMU's 2004 national title season, when Stewart was a quarterbacks coach at WVU.
"Coach Matthews knew my dad through the profession for a long time. The coaching staff is great, they gave me a great vibe and I'm looking forward to working with them," Stewart said. "It's nice having known them a little before, and it's a great opportunity to play for someone like him who's a good man and a great coach."
Stewart was joined by his mother, Karen, on his official visit and said his father would have been proud that he is joining the JMU program.
"Definitely, he would be happy," Stewart said. "He would know it's a great fit, they are going to treat me right and it's a place where I can be successful and get a great education and enjoy the next chapter of my life.
"He laid down a great foundation and seeing this process from the coach's side when I was younger, it was interesting to be on this side of it. I think I'm doing things right and trying to do the best I can to hopefully be successful in the future."
He said though playing his senior season without his father was tough, he saw it as motivation.
"It was an extra drive. I just wanted to play well and honor him and make him proud," Stewart said. "It's always been a goal of mine to play college football and I know he would be proud that I accomplished that."
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