A week ago there were a lot of Cougar fans that would have had to think for a minute before they could name the backup quarterback. We were hoping that the only time we would need one was to wrap up the fourth quarter after Taysom Hill got up on the opponent by four or five touchdowns. Besides, Taysom Hill was invincible, we hoped.
Life-and football-have a way of dashing such hopes, and when Hill went down on Friday with a season ending injury, Christian Stewart was shoved, ready or not, into the spotlight.
Stewart spent his junior season in 2013 on the scout team, seeing action as a Cougar for the first time when he went stepped into the Idaho State game for a few plays. It was a forgettable performance for a couple of reasons-first being that his performance consisted of going 0-2 in the passing game and getting sacked once. The second being that it really didn't matter at all. The Cougars beat Idaho State 59-13. At that point, fans don't really care how the backup quarterback does.
Last week was a completely different situation. Stewart was no longer the backup, and he wasn't going in for a just a few plays. The Cougars weren't up by 46 points, and the pressure was on.
Stewart must have felt a whole range of emotions. Greif and disappointment at seeing his teammate and best friend (not to mention Heisman candidate) fracture his leg; surprise at the suddenness of the situation; fear that the fans would expect him to perform at the level of his predecessor. Then there is the excitement that any athlete feels when finally seeing their dream turn into reality, the thrill of sixty thousand fans now cheering for you, and the eagerness to get the job done.
I previously stated that Stewart was shoved into the spotlight, ready or not. Vanquish the Foe's Rachel Konishi made a great case a few days ago that Stewart is in fact ready, and is deserving of "a clean slate." I agree.
So in that light, let's introduce you to BYU's new quarterback, Christian Stewart.
Stewart was born in Provo, Utah, to parents Nick and Diane. He is majoring in business management, and minoring in Japanese. The 6 foot 2, 208 pound senior prepped at Timpanogos High School where he was named All-State First Team, Utah Valley Player of the Year and Team MVP. Stewart set several 5A records, including 44 single-season touchdowns and an average of 323 passing yards per game. Stewart was also a member of the school's state champion baseball team, and an honor student.
Stewart had offers from Utah State, Colorado State and UNLV, but because his plans for serving an LDS mission and their immediate need for a quarterback conflicted, he turned them all down. Southern Utah, Dixie State and Snow College were more accommodating, but Stewart really wanted to be a Cougar. So he walked-on, was accepted by the Cougars, and redshirted the 2008 season before serving in the Japan Tokyo Mission from 2008-2010.
Following his mission, Stewart returned to BYU to find himself the backup to a host of other quarterbacks, including Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps. Seeing the writing on the wall, he transferred to Snow College and began his collegiate career as a Badger. Stewart excelled at Snow, where he was named All-Conference and became the No. 2 NJCAA quarterback in the nation with 39 touchdowns. He led his team to a huge victory over ASA College in the 2012 Carrier Dome Bowl (Stewart being named the MVP), and the Badgers ended the season 11-1, ranked the No. 3 in the nation.
Having accepted an academic scholarship for the 2013 season, Stewart transferred back to BYU. He traveled a long road to get to there, but still he found himself in line behind a slew of other quarterbacks. The good news was that Heaps was gone. Then Olsen left. Then Green. In June, 2014, Stewart was finally awarded an athletic scholarship, and became BYU's number two quarterback.
Stewart looked good in fall camp. After watching him in practice, Lafe Peavler of the Deseret News said, "Perhaps the most reassuring thing about Stewart is he's comfortable in BYU's new "go fast, go hard" offense. Stewart is pretty mobile in his own right, and he showed off his speed running to the edge a few times this fall. The Cougar offense wouldn't need to change its entire offensive scheme if Hill can't play. BYU fans hope that Hill will stay healthy and Stewart will only play late in blowouts. However, it appears in practice that Stewart has progressed enough as a passer to be a solid backup to Hill."
The hopes that Peavler spoke of have been dashed, and the Cougars have had the wind knocked out of them, as Jordan Leslie put it. But the team and coaching staff have expressed faith in Christian Stewart, and I believe that the fans will too. He has been prepared, and he has been patient.
Stewart now finds himself preparing to lead the team into battle-a team that was clearly disappointed and deflated after last weeks loss to Utah State. It now becomes his responsibility to lead his teammates as they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, bandage themselves up, and start all over again.