Zach Stewart made a wise decision to stop by football practice at the University of Tennessee on Tuesday.
“Well we’d been up to Junior Day (at Tennessee),” he said. “They told us to come back whenever we wanted.”
He was rewarded for his return.
The 6-foot-4, 298-pound sophomore lineman from Coalfield High School received a scholarship offer to play for the Vols.
Stewart, who had won the overall MVP award at the 5-star National Underclassmen Combine in Myrtle Beach, S.C., only days before, said he was “pumped” about receiving his first Football Bowl Subdivision offer.
“I couldn’t collect myself to speak there for a minute,” said Stewart. “It was something I didn’t expect. It was something that was really important to me. It was a really good feeling.”
Playing for Tennessee has been Stewart’s dream, he said, since deciding in fourth grade that he wanted to play college football.
Choosing not to commit right away, Stewart wanted to make sure reality equaled his visions of playing for the Vols.
“I didn’t want to commit right away. My mom wasn’t there, and I wanted to talk it over with her,” he said, “and just to keep coming back and building relationships with all the coaches and people. If I’m going to spend four years of my life there, if I’m going to do that, I need to get to know everybody really well before I make the commitment.”
Linemen from Class 1A schools don’t get SEC offers that often. But Stewart’s brand of play matches that of a highly touted 6A lineman.
He won an MVP award at an NUC linemen combine in Oklahoma as a freshman. He then led Coalfield to the state semifinals this past fall, paving the way for a 2,000-yard rusher and also making 117 tackles with 23 tackles for loss and 14 sacks.
He was named PrepXtra Sophomore of the Year by the News Sentinel.
Stewart carries a 4.0 grade-point average. He said he’ll likely play right tackle or right guard in college.
And while National Signing Day 2015 is a while from now, he has liked what he’s seen so far from new Tennessee coach Butch Jones and staff.
“They’re up-tempo. They’re a great staff,” he said. “They’ll get after you if they need to get after you. They’ll make sure you’re doing what’s right. But they try to promote a family atmosphere there, which I think is really good.”