Name: Brandon Stewart
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Stewart only spent two years at Kansas, having previously spent two years at Trinity Valley Community College.
As the fun fact states, Brandon Stewart wasn't always a Kansas Jayhawk. After playing 3 years of High School football at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, Stewart moved to Cedar Hill in Texas for his Senior Season. Playing under HC Joey McGuire (who now works as an Assistant TE coach for Baylor), things came together for Stewart, who earned a letter, was named a First-Team All-District player and a Second-Team All-State player.
For whatever reason (maybe that one season wasn't enough to get Stewart recruited, maybe he didn't qualify academically, or maybe he didn't want to go straight to D1), Stewart left HS and went to Trinity Valley Community College in 2012. His Freshman Season was quiet, and he redshirted the 2013 season, but Stewart really made a name for himself in his Sophomore Season in 2014. Starting at CB, Stewart was a major part of a team that found themselves going 12-0, grabbing three interceptions and 19 pass breakups.
That was definitely enough to get Stewart noticed, and despite interest from Cal, the CB chose to head to Kansas for his Junior Season. He wasn't heading there alone, either. Kansas had signed three Trinity Valley players that year, and so Stewart was joined by OL De'Andre Banks and secondary partner, roommate, and best friend Bazie Bates IV.
“We’re Day One friends since we met at JUCO. We’ve been best friends since. When you look over and see your best friend, a guy you know you can depend on, it helps you and motivates you to do better.”
The trio had joined a struggling program, with Kansas going 3-9 in 2014. The Jayhawks struggles would work in Stewart's favor, as he was pressed into action right away, starting 9 games in his Junior Year (which was his first year at Kansas). Stewart had 35 tackles and a forced fumble, but (as seems to be the trend with his career), he came on leaps and bounds in his Senior Year: Stewart started all 12 games, had 8 pass breakups and impressively managed to intercept three passes - two of those coming in one game against TCU - and returning the other for a TD against Texas.
Stewart's impressive performances had earned him NFL attention - and not just from scouts, either:
Brandon stewert and Fish better get a nice look from NFL— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) October 8, 2016
That's Kansas alumna and Broncos CB Chris Harris praising Brandon Stewart (and teammate Fish Smithson). That's pretty cool - but I'd imagine it would have been cooler if Harris had spelt Stewart's name right.
Still, being talked about by Chris Harris and even being considered as an NFL prospect is a phenomenal achievement for anybody - let alone somebody who felt he'd made the biggest mistake of his life when he first arrived at Kansas.
Kenny Perry was the CB coach there, and his coaching style can be described in one word: Loud.
Stewart notes that “The first few days, it was really hard and I was like, ‘What’s going on,’ and questioning myself. Every day, I had to get myself mentally prepared to play football for him. It was a battle every day.” According to CJOnline, Stewart spent an hour before each practice lying on the floor, going through every possible scenario in his mind so that Perry wouldn't have a reason to scream at him.
Stewart would get used to Perry's style - after all, "you realize he has your best interest and the best interest of this football team on his mind.” In a few months, Stewart would even be able to smile when talking about Perry. The coach would text him every day, and, according to CJOnline, some of the texts would ask Stewart how his girlfriend was doing - and others would even tell the CB that he loved him!
When Stewart realised that Perry actually cared about him, and that his 'tough love' approach was for his benefit, things became much easier - but getting there wasn't an instant process. Perry said that "after about four days, Stewart went into the tank on me. I knew he would. You’ve got to break them down, and you’ve got to build them up. You know what? He realized that his 4.6 [40 yard dash], long body, long arms wasn’t going to work. It didn’t matter how long and how quick he was. He had to learn how to play defensive back.”
At the time, Brandon Stewart may not have appreciated the way that Perry went about teaching him, but it worked. Stewart was committed too, working out and improving every day over his summer, and together the duo were able to carve out a legitimate NFL prospect.
If I'm honest, I don't like his chances of staying here for very long. The Chargers have some CB spots open, but people like Trovon Reed, Trevor Williams (who both saw gametime last year) and Michael Davis (who's rumoured to have been impressing the coaches early in camp) are more likely to come away with a roster spot than the largely unheralded Brandon Stewart. (He's been by far the hardest player to research so far - there's just not much information out there about him, and he ignored my DM on Twitter).
We'll get a better idea of what Stewart can do on the field when Training Camp and Preseason comes around. The team obviously like him - he wouldn't be here if they didn't - but he's going to have to prove that they should like him enough to make him a part of their 53 man roster in September.