There was one unexpected benefit of the COVID-19 outbreak for Lincoln-Way East offensive lineman Ryan Stewart.
“It gave me an opportunity to eat a lot more,” Stewart said with a laugh.
That food intake along with the requisite amount of weight and strength training allowed Stewart to bulk up considerably from the playing form that had him starting as the only underclassman on the Griffins’ state championship team in 2019.
Stewart played then at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. He’s now bulked up to 260 and is determined to add more size and strength in the near future.
San Jose State is convinced that the progress is something that it can count on, and as such offered Stewart a full scholarship to come join their burgeoning program.
The Spartans went 7-0 in the regular season winning the Mountain West Conference title this year, and while Stewart is glad to be joining a program that appears to be on the upswing, he acknowledges that the fit with San Jose State could seem odd to some.
But the San Jose State coaching staff has a link to the Midwest in offensive line coach Josh Oglesby. Oglesby played at Wisconsin and makes no secret what he’s looking for in the mold of his offensive linemen.
“I originally hooked up with them through Twitter,” Stewart said. “Their OL coach played at Wisconsin in he’s a Midwest guy. He said he wants Midwest guys for his offensive line because he knows what they are about. They liked my tape and they offered.”
Stewart’s courtship involved frequent workout tapes and even going so far as sending video to show the weight gain he’d added since playing his junior year. Stewart’s junior tape held up and the Spartans saw enough to be convinced that Stewart was someone they wanted to partner with.
“It was a lot of phone calls, zooms, it was different,” Stewart said of the recruiting process. “I was still lucky, because they could see my junior tape, a lot of my friends didn’t get to play as juniors. I was blessed to have a pretty good year of tape to get these looks.”
And while he only got to see two schools on actual visits, Stewart did get an opportunity to take an “unofficial” visit to San Jose State before actually committing to the school.
“It’s been unbelievable. I went out there this summer, you can’t really visit officially, I walked out on there field it was open a little bit and I saw their running back before the season,” Stewart said. “They were like, ‘Last year we were decent and we just needed our running game to change.’ This whole year their whole motto has been running the football and that’s what they’ve done. It’s been fun to watch knowing I could be a part of that in the future.”
Stewart and San Jose State both agree on what he could bring to the table for the program.
“They liked that they could build on me,” Stewart said. “I’ve put 40 pounds on, but they feel like they can put more weight on me and they like my athleticism. They feel like I can be pretty huge in their program once I put the weight on. I’m trying to be 290 to 300.”
Stewart is still anxiously awaiting the next step in what his senior football season might look like, but regardless of what form that might take, he’s keeping his eye on the long term.
“You don’t want to slack off, and miss four months of training,” Stewart said. “They are saying there might be (a spring football season), and if there might be, you have got to work. We are just trying to keep each other motivated, and I think we are doing a pretty good job.”