I’m not sure where to begin. The past two weeks have been a blur from when it was first reported that Walter Stewart wouldn’t be making the trip to Toledo due to an undisclosed upper body injury against the Fordham Rams. That phrase could literally mean anything from a broken neck to a headache and that uncertainty is what really made most Bearcat fans nervous.
Now it seems like the worst case scenario has come to fruition. Walter Stewart’s career as a Cincinnati Bearcat is over:
Bearcat Lair has learned that Cincinnati’s star defensive end, Walter Stewart, will no longer be able to play football due to a congenital defect in his spine. Stewart’s foster father, Keith Fields, told BCL on Monday night that Stewart was born without a “posterior C1 arch” and the problem surfaced after the Fordham game on October 13.
“Walt was injured on the fourth play of the game,” said Fields. “But he continued to play the rest of the game. The acute fracture of the front part of his arch revealed the problem with the C1.”
Let’s take a look at said fourth play:
It’s pretty routine, a zone-blitz with Walt keeping an eye on the flat in zone coverage. Fordham receiver Brian Wetzel runs a deep in moving in front of the safety and finding a wide open space in the middle of the field. Unfortunately for him he also finds Walter Stewart dropping back and helping out from his defensive end position. They collide on the C-Paw.
Like I said it’s a standard tackle, not an explosive hit or anything but Walt seems to land awkwardly. I have no idea what happened to him internally on this play but it was enough to cost him his career.
For Walt it seems like his playing days are over. I don’t think he would he would be selected by a NFL team at this point and for his own long-term health it is probably in his best interest to pass on any offer that might come his way. You just never really know if this defect would lead to any irreparable harm to Walt if he took a hit in the wrong spot.
Speaking to his father Kyle Fields over the weekend it seems like they are keeping their options open. The good.. no.. great news coming out of all of this is that Walter Stewart will emerge from UC will a college degree. And given what he had to fight through just to get to the University of Cincinnati that’s a huge accomplishment. He would also make an extremely valuable assistant coach if any program would have him. Of course greedy ol’ me would like to see him on the sidelines of Nippert working with the defensive line in the future.
Honestly I’m not truly sure what is the next step on the path for him but whatever it may be I’m 100% certain Walter Stewart will excel at it.
For the Bearcats going forward expect to see a whole lot more of Brandon Mills and Silverberry Mouhon. Both filled Walt’s enormous shoes admirably against Toledo and Louisville. But Mills will have to play bigger and Mouhon wiser if Cincinnati hopes to fill the void of big #54 on the edge of the defensive line. Like I’ve mentioned throughout this time I have all the confidence in the world in these two as well as defensive coordinator John Jancek in finding ways to continue to stuff the run without Walter Stewart.