Basketball guard Stewart looks to make football team as wide receiver
Senior guard Austin Stewart’s Central Michigan athletic career seemed to be over when the men’s basketball team lost to Tennessee-Martin in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament March 16.
The day after the loss — in which he had two points in nine minutes off the bench — Stewart sat down with football Head Coach John Bonamego. On the same day, he took passes from former Chippewa quarterback Dan LeFevour following CMU Pro Day.
He practiced with the football team for the first time on Tuesday as a wide receiver.
“He came to me, he had mentioned something to me I believe at the end of last year that he wanted to tryout once basketball was over,” Bonamego said. “I said to him, ‘Just focus 100 percent on basketball and then we’ll have a discussion as soon as basketball’s over.’”
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Stewart played wide receiver at Normal Community West High School in Illinois.
“We’re glad to have him,” said Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Gino Guidugli. “I’ve seen him out here working with Dan LeFevour a couple days, but didn’t really put two and two together until seeing him in practice.”
Bonamego said Stewart is not guaranteed a spot on the team. He would have one year of eligibility.
“All of that stuff is really up in the air,” he said. “This is really only his first practice. We’ll evaluate him and find out if he has a role and can have a role with us.”
Bonamego said he and his staff decided to give Stewart a shot because of the skill set he possesses.
“He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s got length, he can run,” Bonamego said. “He looks like he catches the ball very well. We’ll continue to train him and evaluate him as it goes.”
Stewart finished his CMU basketball career averaging 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 13.6 minutes a game in 2015-16 — all the lowest since his freshman season.
Guidugli said very few high school athletes get recruited for multiple sports at Division I schools.
At CMU, incoming freshman quarterback Tony Poljan was recruited by multiple Division I schools for football and basketball, while incoming transfer running back Berkley Edwards has already participated with the track team.
“When you get to the collegiate level, it’s tough to be a two-sport athlete,” Guidugli said. “Some guys can do it. I played on a college team with (Philadelphia Eagles defensive end) Connor Barwin, who started off playing basketball and played football at well, but he’s a lot better football player obviously than he is a basketball player. I think that’s always going to be the case when you get to this level.”
Junior defensive back Gary Jones tried to do football and track at one point in his career, Guidugli said.
Outside of football, senior Blake Hibbitts spent multiple years as a pitcher on CMU’s baseball team and a forward on the basketball team, before deciding to focus on basketball this season.