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59 Days ‘Til Alabama Football: The wild, weird career of Robert Stewart

Started at running back, but ended up as a legendary nose guard in the Arena League.

Robert Stewart
eBay (hey, they didn’t claim rights to it.)

Not very many running backs enter a football program and wrap up their career as an All-SEC performer at nose guard. But, for Robert Stewart, that’s exactly what happened.

Stewart was a fireplug, standing just 6’ tall. But, between exiting Ashford and arriving in Tuscaloosa, he was already well over 230 pounds — time to move him to fullback. To his credit, he not only moved to FB, but played as a true freshman and played well. He carried the ball 42 times for 135 yards and notched a score. But, what drew the most attention to him was the Hurricane Bowl when he had a beautiful catch and run on a swing pass. He totaled 8 catches that year for 52 yards and one huge, important touchdown. This was the year he began being used on defense, playing in four games as a linebacker.

The 1989 season would see him suspended the entire year for disciplinary reasons (naughty, naughty Robert.) But, in his absence from conditioning, Stewart was still growing...and growing...and growing. He kept bulking up until he neared 270 pounds. He still had a fullback’s agility and explosiveness, but now it was on a lineman’s frame.

Gene Stallings came to the Capstone in 1990, and he secretly believed everyone should play defense, I’m convinced of it. Not one to waste such a possible talent, and having seen Stewart play at linebacker, Stallings threw Stewart on the line...where he improbably thrived.

Manning the nose around an excellent linebacking corps, Stewart was hell on defenders. Being just 6’0”, it was nearly impossible to outleverage him. And, he wasn’t just beefy, he was strong. He set some Alabama weight room records that stood for almost 20 years. Many of them would not fall until another versatile, squat guy followed him -- Josh Chapman.

in 1991, Stewart would finally shine when surrounded by talented All-American rush-ends, a pair of guys you may have heard of: Eric Curry and John Copeland. That year, as the Tide allowed just four rushing TDs, Robert Stewart racked up 59 tackles (8TFL,) 6 sacks, and was named first team All-SEC on the defensive line. For his career, Stewart finished with 144 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 TDs, three positions played, one position recruited-for, and one year in the proverbial hoosegow.

Please enjoy these YouTube highlights of that frustratingly-awesome 11-1 season.

Stewart’s wild ride was only beginning after graduation though. He was drafted in 1992 by the New Orleans Saints — nearly as Mr. Irrelevant (in the 8th round (Pick 218)). But, if anyone defined ‘tweener, it was him. Stewart did not pan out in the NFL.

Stewart did land in the Arena league though, where he had a 12-year long, nigh’ Hall of Fame career. Stewart played on both the offensive and defensive lines for several squads. He was the Lineman of the Year in 1999 and a six-time All-Arena Selection. And, his career stats were impressive for any down lineman, much less in a league averse to anything resembling defense: 158 tackles, 38.5 sacks, 7 FF, and 1 touchdown.

Robert Stewart finally retired in 2014 after his long, strange trip.

59 days ‘til Alabama football.

Roll Tide