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Cal State Fullerton Notebook / Robyn Norwood : Despite Quick Career, Stewart Could Make Titan History

February 15, 1989|Robyn Norwood

Alex Stewart had a 38-tackle career at Cal State Fullerton, not much to mention save the fact that nearly one in four tackles was a sack.

But come April, Stewart has a pretty fair chance of doing something no Titan has done before, becoming a first-round choice in the National Football League draft.

That would earn him a spot in the Titan record book that his stats never will.

Fourteen Fullerton players have been drafted, and none higher than cornerback Mark Collins of the New York Giants in 1986 and offensive lineman Daren Gilbert of the New Orleans Saints in 1985, who were taken in the second round.

Now there is Stewart, who played only eight games at Fullerton.

Although slowed by injuries in the early part of the season, he played very well late in the year and was invited to two all-star games and the NFL's scouting combine, where college players are drilled and tested.

Stewart blew the competition away every time.

He had a fine day in the Blue-Gray game, and with three sacks in the Senior Bowl, he was named the game's defensive MVP.

At the combine early this month in Indianapolis, he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash, which Stewart says is the slowest he has ever run--but which was still faster than any other lineman there.

His performances in the vertical leap (37.5 inches) and broad jump (10-feet-3) outdid almost every lineman, and put him in the company of cornerbacks and receivers.

In the bench press, he did 27 consecutive repetitions at 225 pounds, outdoing every defensive lineman but one. That would be his brother Andrew, a defensive end at the University of Cincinnati, who did 30.

Then there is the matter of Stewart's build-- imposing may be too weak a word. Stewart, 6-feet-4 and 265 pounds, is a man with a physique that will turn even the heads of NFL players.

Fullerton defensive coordinator Kirk Harmon, who had what he calls his "brief coffee stop" in the NFL, says there wasn't anybody who looked like Stewart, and solidly predicts at least one rookie honor for him.

"He definitely makes the all-bus team his first year in the NFL," Harmon said. "By that, I mean no one is going to look better getting off the bus. Some may look better on the field, but not off it."

In short, Stewart is a fellow who can quicken the heart rate of NFL player personnel directors--and agents.

"I believe he's a first-rounder," said Bruce Allen, Stewart's agent.

Others with less to gain if Stewart is a first-rounder call him a mid-to-late first-rounder, possibly second or third.

"I tell you, that young man has really caught some people's eyes," said John Butler, the Buffalo Bills' director of college scouting. "His stock really rose with the all-star games and the combine. . . . The talent is obviously there."

Stewart's success may be a surprise to some, but do not count Stewart among that group.

"I pretty much knew what I could do in the combine," Stewart said. "I knew I would stand out. . . . I'm not talking about the best in the Big West Conference. I'm talking about the top guys in the draft. Those are the ones I dominated. In the combine, I ran faster, was stronger, jumped higher and further. . . . I'm excited and everything, but it's not like it just happened out of the blue. I've been working for it. It's not something that just happened."

There are of course some doubts about his ability, and the clearest is that Stewart has played only one season of major-college football.

He came to Fullerton after transferring from USC without ever playing a game. He played two seasons at Fresno City College, and signed with Ted Tollner at USC. But after Tollner was fired, Stewart said he decided he didn't want to stay. He went to Fullerton to play out his final year of eligibility.

At Fullerton, Stewart played noseguard and a couple other positions, but did not play end, which he calls his natural position.

That spot was held by A.J. Jenkins, a team captain and the second-leading tackler with 77. Jerry Leggett, an inside linebacker, led the team with 109 tackles.

But by only playing one year at Fullerton, Stewart was never a dyed-in-the-wool Titan.

"I came here and I adjusted to (Fullerton) not being a big school, not having a stadium," Stewart said. "I felt that it would be one year, do well and go on. I did what I had to do. Whether I was happy or not had nothing to do with it. I came here to do what I had to do. I had one year of eligibility left and I did it."

UC Riverside Coach John Masi said Tuesday he has applied for the Fullerton men's basketball coaching position. Masi has a 193-82 record in more than nine seasons at Riverside, including a 20-3 record this season. He guided Division II Riverside to an upset of Iowa in December.

In addition to Masi, others who have applied include acting coach John Sneed, Arizona State acting coach Bob Schermerhorn, former Fullerton assistant Mel Sims and Iowa assistant coach Rudy Washington.

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