What do you do when you have two standout male athletes — one named one of the top football players in the state as a junior, the other a four-time state champion in wrestling — and you have to choose one as the best all-around athlete?
For the first time in the 42-year history of The North Jefferson News, we have chosen two stellar individuals as our Male Athlete of the Year — or in this case, Co-Athlete of the Year.
Brandon Brindley is one of a select few wrestlers to ever win four gold medals at the AHSAA. From the local area, only Steve Mordecai of Gardendale has matched the feat.
He missed a fifth gold by one solitary point in the 2010 championship match, and did not lose an in-state match from that point until the end of his career in February at the state finals in Huntsville. Brindley was also named a USA Wrestling All-American twice.
By all accounts, and by the general consensus of local coaches, Brindley is the best wrestler to ever come out of north Jefferson County. And he will continue his career in college, as he wrestles for the Cougars of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
As for Stewart, his speed and scoring ability turned lots of heads — some of them his opponents, trying to figure out where he was going; some of them from media who were in awe of his skills; and some of them college coaches and scouts who wanted his services in the fall of 2013.
In that latter category, Alabama’s Nick Saban was the victor, as he convinced the Fultondale quarterback/safety to play for the defending BCS national champions. Stewart picked the Crimson Tide over numerous other schools, including Auburn, where gene Chizik reportedly wanted him to play as a slotback. (Saban will likely put him in the defensive secondary.)
Stewart’s record-shattering numbers for the season helped him finish fourth in the Mr. Football voting by the Alabama Sports Writers Association — a rarity for a junior, but especially for one from a Class 2A school. He led the Wildcats to the quarterfinals of the playoffs in 2012, the first time that Fultondale has ever advanced that far.
[Note: Corrected at 5:00 p.m. to fix Brindley's college, which was originally listed as Southern Illinois University's main campus, home of the Salukis.]