Does that photo look familiar?
It should. We shot that for our football preview section, where ArDarius Stewart was our cover story. It has become the standard file photo to use when his name turns up in a story, which is quite often.
Stewart had just come off a banner junior year, and had finished fourth in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s “Mr. Football” balloting, selecting the best high school player in the state.
He caught the attention of Alabama head coach Nick Saban as well. It didn’t take much convincing to get Stewart to commit to the national champions; he is preparing for the next level there as you read this.
Fast forward a year later, and Stewart just completed another stellar season, leading his Fultondale Wildcats team to their second straight appearance in the AHSAA Class 2A quarterfinal playoff round.
His on-field exploits caught the eye of the state’s sportswriters yet again. Another season of 50 touchdowns or more, finishing his prep career with 138 trips to the end zone. That’s third on the state’s all-time record list.
Somehow, he fell short of winning the top prize as Mr. Football — by just two points, the slimmest margin in the history of the award. The winner was Jeremy Johnson, the Auburn signee out of Carver-Montgomery.
Keith Register, the coach who altered his game plan to fit his star’s talents, wasn’t convinced.
“He’s the best in this state, I don’t care what they say,” Register said after the Mr. Football banquet in Montgomery. “He’s the best player I’ve ever coached, or ever seen.”
We agree with Register, and would add that Stewart is a pretty good track athlete, too, with three state 2A gold medals this year alone.