BC football alumnus gives back to community

Leanne Cave

For Michael Stewart becoming a Bakersfield College Renegade was a steppingstone to bigger and better things. While at BC in 1983-84, Stewart made the choices that helped him succeed in life as well as on the football field.

“Attending BC gave me a great opportunity to achieve goals. It was a way to continue school as well as participate in athletics,” the 36-year-old said. “It was cost effective and it helped me prepare for the next level. I had a lot of fun.

“While at BC, I didn’t know if I wanted to sit in the stands with my friends or play football,” he said. “I knew I wanted to play baseball in the spring.”

Deciding to play football turned out to be the ultimate choice for Stewart while at BC.

As a starting outside linebacker for the ‘Gades, Stewart earned All-Conference status two years and was chosen as an Honorable Mention JC All-American his sophomore year.

In his freshman season, he recorded 13 and a half sacks and as a sophomore, nine and a half sacks.

BC coaches, past and present, remember Stewart as a Renegade known for his leadership and determination.

Stewart participated in huddles for Christian athletes. Duane Damron, retired offensive line coach, who hosted Christian huddles for athletes, remembered him.

“We are very proud of Michael Stewart,” Damron said. “He was a great player and is a great person. He has had a great impact on kids.”

Walt Johnson, former coach of the ‘Gades, said that Stewart was a great athlete who lives his faith.

“Not only was he a great athlete for BC, but a great person. He had the determination to do the right things and make the right choices as an athlete as well as a student,” Johnson said.

Stewart remembers that head coach Gerry Collis made the game of football fun for the players by telling a variety of funny stories and jokes.

“Even when we lost, he would tell funny stories and jokes,” Stewart said. “He didn’t dwell on the loss. This is something that the game is lacking today.”

“The emphasis is on winning and not on the players,” he said. “When I played for the Rams, I enjoyed playing for Coach John Robinson because he was a players coach.”

He chose to attend Fresno State University where he was given the green light to play baseball as well as football. He started as a linebacker for the Bulldogs.

“While at Fresno State, I was drafted by three professional baseball teams,” he said. “The Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays all had an interest in me.”

Stewart made the decision to play football for the Los Angeles Rams instead.

“The Rams were instrumental in my decision to play pro football. I played baseball in school and probably would have played at a higher level,” Stewart said. “But the Rams drafted me, so I played football.”

Stewart grew up as a Los Angeles Ram fan. His childhood dream of playing for the Rams became reality when he was drafted in 1987 in the eighth round.

After an exceptional football career Stewart decided to give back to the community. Through the Michael Stewart Foundation, a nonprofit organization, he is helping 13- to 18-year-old high school students achieve their goals in academics as well as in athletics.

The foundation administers programs that help students with intellectual and spiritual growth. Some of these programs are The On Time Program, which helps to educate students on requirements that are necessary to attend college. The Michael Stewart Academic/Sport Camp, a three day overnight camp that emphasizes spiritual, academic and athletic development. The Scholarship Fund established to provide scholarships for participants who enter and maintain eligible academic status at a two- or four-year institution or trade school and the Resource Fund which was established to help financially with academic and educational outings for students.

“The main goal is to help students understand courses that will prepare them for college,” he said. “It helps them to become better players on the field and develop self-worth.”

Stewart also has established fund-raisers such as The Michael Stewart Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament and The Summer Skate Jam, in which the proceeds go to scholarship funding and those who have earned rewards on the basis of academic excellence.

“We can all be proud of Michael Stewart. He has come back to serve the community. Not everyone has done what he has done for the community,” Walt Johnson said.

Tim Hartnett, head coach of the Bakersfield High School Drillers said that Stewart helps young players with academics as well as football.

“We’ve seen some of the benefits that kids receive from Michael’s foundation when they come to BHS,” Hartnett said. “He has a positive effect on kids. They work harder in the classroom and they have goals.”

Stewart started out on special teams with the Los Angeles Rams but earned the defensive back position. He played professional football for 10 years, seven with the Rams. He finished his football career with the Miami Dolphins, playing three years for the team.

“My determination to achieve goals was a factor in achieving my goals,” he said. “Hard work does pay off. This is something I strive to teach kids.”

At the age of 10, Stewart moved from Atascadero to Bakersfield. He attended Fremont School and Emerson Junior High. He prepped at Bakersfield High where he earned All-league and All-area honors in football.

“Coach Paul Briggs was instrumental in my success as a high school player and helped me to prepare for college,” he said.

“He helped me to become mentally tough which was vital in overcoming obstacles,” Stewart said.

When not busy with foundation projects, Stewart substitute teaches in the Bakersfield area. A motivational speaker, he has spoken to high school Christian huddles, teaching kids to make the right choices in life. He also spends Friday and Saturday nights broadcasting for Time Warner Cable. His latest broadcast was the Potato Bowl.

The father of three also anticipates a football tradition continuing in his family. His oldest son, Michael Stewart II, played as a running back and a defensive back for the BHS junior varsity this season. His youngest son, Andrew, will attend BHS in 2002. He also has a daughter, Ciara, in kindergarten.

He speaks with a lot of pride when talking about the accomplishments of his children.

“I encourage them to be the best they can be and to always treat others with respect,” he said.