Anwar Stewart’s experience, on paper, might look different than his Appalachian State assistant counterparts.
Stewart, the Mountaineers’ new defensive line coach, pieced together a long career in the Canadian Football League from 2001 to 2013. He turned his playing career into a coaching career, working with the Montreal Alouettes until 2017.
He went to Kentucky, his alma mater, as a student assistant while he finished his degree and then joined the support staff. His route to App State is partially a product of the professional network he’s built throughout his life.
“I reached out to coach Ted Roof, and I actually got some of my mentors and past coaches to reach out to him and to coach Drink (Eliah Drinkwitz, App State’s head coach),” Stewart said. “It kind of presented itself for an opportunity to come in and interview for the job and I was very excited.”
But even if there’s not the direct-line connection for Stewart to App State (much like a few other new assistants on this coaching staff), he spreads some of the same messages that his new school has built a foundation on.
Coming out of Kentucky, Stewart said he didn’t get a real shot at the NFL because of his size. Stewart, a defensive end, is 6-foot-3. His playing weight was listed between 250 and 255 pounds. But when he left the Wildcats, he was slender.
He found his opportunity to play in the CFL. Stewart played 12 years, mainly for the Alouettes, and won four Grey Cups during that time. He was named the CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2004. And all that was fueled, he said, by being passed over by teams in the NFL.
“I took that and put it on my shoulder. I worked hard. I didn’t settle for less. I pushed myself and others around me,” Stewart said last week. “I was a great leader. I was always early, always left late.
Stewart sees players who have that same mindset at App State. The 3-4 defense the Mountaineers have been running since 2013 is predicated on speed, capitalizing on the smaller defensive linemen the program recruited.
App State returns both of its starting ends for 2019 in juniors Elijah Diarrassouba and Chris Willis. And while starting nose tackle MyQuon Stout is gone, 6-foot-3 senior E.J. Scott is the likely candidate to step in his place. He was awarded a scholarship Wednesday. Those are three members of a position group that brings back many from a three-deep rotation.
Stewart got to experience the benefits of a long pro career. On top of helping this current batch of Mountaineers win, he’d like to help set them up for that too. “When we talk about at this level, it’s putting the time in,” Stewart said. “If you put the time in now, there’s a lot of benefit down the road. It might not even be about football, it might be about life.”