By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The biggest buzz after signing day last February surrounded linebacker Tony Steward out of St. Augustine, FL who shocked the world by choosing the Tigers over Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles and several other programs. Steward sat down with the media on Monday and spoke to them about how and when he made his decision, how his knee is holding up now 8 months after surgery, and what it felt like playing his first game in Death Valley on Saturday versus the Troy Trojans.
Steward, who was ranked the #9 player in the nation in the ESPN 150, agreed to make his signing day decision on television before the start of his senior year of high school and several times leading up to his decision day, Steward wished that he could back out of making the decision on television.
“I want to say I made my decision the night before signing day. I called the coaches and let them know but I didn’t have my mind completely made up,” Steward said. “I wish I hadn’t agreed to make my decision on TV, there wasn’t any pressure on me from anyone from my hometown, just pressure on myself because I didn’t want to let anyone down. I’m the one that had to live with the decision I made.”
Does he still feel like choosing Clemson was the right decision?
“Yes definitely, I love it here,” Steward said. “I love the atmosphere at Clemson and the fact that it is a small town, it reminds me of my hometown. I love the coaches here at Clemson too, Coach Steele gives us a lot of constructive criticism that can be harsh at times, but it definitely has helped me learn the defense quicker. I chose Clemson because I thought that I could have a better opportunity here both academically and as an athlete, and I still think that’s true.”
How did Steward feel running down the hill for the first time last Saturday, and getting considerable playing time?
“I definitely had butterflies on Saturday before the game,” Steward said. “But it definitely lived up to the expectations I had for my first career game. You don’t believe how loud that stadium can be, and how it can get you going. It’s a great experience, probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. Saturday was my first game in Death Valley, and it was a pretty great experience.”
Steward who had surgery on his knee 9 months ago knows that he can still play faster and can contribute even more to the team once he’s 100%.
“My knee is doing pretty good, better than I thought it would be. It’s getting stronger every day,” Steward said. “Sometimes I even forget about it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to get out there and run and cut, it surprises me that I can. It’s normally sore after practice and when I wake up in the morning. I have the flex back but my burst isn’t completely back. “
Steward says that on some plays he believed his burst was back however on others he wasn’t quite there yet.
“I just have to get my confidence back,” Steward said. “My doctor told me that it would probably take a year to be back to normal. It’s working right now so that’s all that matters. I’ve started doing some of the things I used to-jumping with full explosion. It’s still not the same, but I’m getting used to it. When camp first started, I thought maybe I ought to redshirt to get it back to full health, but as camp went on it got better.”