23 May 2012
Over the last fews days we have shared stories and quotes from around the nation about the passing of Bill Stewart. The news of his passing came as a shock to the college football world, and the State of West Virginia. Stew was a lot of things to different people. I will share my personal thoughts , and the opportunity I had to meet the man.
Like most, I remember Stew as the quarterback's coach under Rich Rodriguez. You would always see him invested in the game, not letting a play go by, and always remaining focused no matter the situation.
Then came the decision of Rich Rod to leave WVU after the loss to Pitt in 2007.
Enter Bill Stewart.
Stew was placed to keep the Mountaineers together and prepared for a Fiesta showdown with the Oklahoma Sooners. The nation gave the Mountaineers little to no chance. Could you blame them?
The team had just lost to Pitt, and a shot to play in the National Championship. The head coach decides to leave and take the job at Michigan. You had a coaching staff that didn't know what would happen next. Would they go to Michigan? Would they be fired? Would they be retained?
The weeks leading to the game was filled with questions about the team, and Stew's past coaching history. Still, the Mountaineers was never given a chance.
As history shows, Stew and the staff kept the team together and rolled over the Sooners 48-28, when 84% of the nation said they couldn't do it.
After the game the players called for Stew to be hired as head coach. Later that night, they got their wish.
That night, Bill Stewart was hired as the 32nd head football coach. The press conference the next day was aired all over the state. I remember driving home from work after a night working the ambulance in Kanawha County. I remember being excited for the hire, and the excitement that filled the room.
Stew was talking about the state. He talked about family. He talked about missing his dad, and the blessing of having a son. He reassuring parents that he would take care of them, just like he did with his son Blaine.
How can you forget the story of the Gatorade being dumped on him? I thought it was funny that he let everyone know he didn't shower that night and it was sticky, but his bride Karen didn't mind.
He never forgot where he came from. I remember him talking about skinny dipping in the river, and stealing turnip's when he was a kid. He was infact New Martinsville tough. One thing he never forgot to mention was his bride, Karen.
I was invited to Morgantown shortly after the Fiesta Bowl to join a buddy of mine who was meeting the team. I jumped at the opportunity to meet the guys.
I remember the team walking in, and behind them came Stew. They played the 2007 highlight video, and shortly after, signed autographs. Ste had a glow about him, and you could tell he was happy to be there. He wanted to shake every hand, take every picture, sign every autograph, and hold every baby.
He talked about faith, family, and never giving up in life. To work at what you want, and never give up. He said this old boy is the luckiest guy in the world, and he'll be here until the day he dies. The team left but Stew stuck around and kept talking to the fans. He kept thanking everyone for the support, and wish everyone well as he left.
Fast forward to today. We all know his record at WVU and how the end went down, but this isn't about that. This is about Stew.
Many will remember Bill Stewart as the man with the "Leave no doubt" speech before the Fiesta Bowl. The video has been put on repeat over the last few days, and will continue to be a reminder of the man.
But I will remember Stew as the man that brought WVU out of it's darkest hour. The man who walked by faith and kept his friends close, but his family closer.
People say you don't know what you have until it's gone. I believe folks in the Mountain State knew what they had, they just didn't realize it until a few days ago.
Days later is still shocking that he passed. I remember giving my mom the news, and she didn't have words. I don't think many of us had the words to say or really understand what happened.
There is a movement to get stickers on the back of helmets that read "Leave No Doubt". I'm sure WVU will pay tribute to Coach Stewart in some way this season.
I send my thoughts and prayers to the Stewart family. I know today will be a rough day for all in Mountaineer Nation, and I knew we will all, Leave No Doubt.
I appreciate you all allowing me to share my story on Coach Bill Stewart.
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