2022 INDUCTEE - GREG STEWART
Greg Stewart played football with a passion at Austin and in college at Troy. He was a first-team All-State selection for the Austin Black Bears in 1982. He played on NCAA Division II national championship teams at Troy in 1984 and 1987. After college the game of his passion turned into his profession of coaching lasting more than 30 years. Early in his coaching career, Stewart was an assistant coach on Jacksonville State’s 1992 national championship team. While serving on the JSU coaching staff, he helped engineer stunning upset wins over Ole Miss, 49-48, in 2010, and over Florida State, 21-17, in 2021.
Stewart's Wild Ride Started at Austin
Playing for Tom Calvin inspired All-State player into coaching career
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
In Greg Stewart's time as a football player at Troy and as an assistant coach at Jacksonville State, his travels have taken him near Sylacauga in central Alabama many times.
“If I get just sort of close to Sylacauga, I will go out of my way to drive by the high school and to the fieldhouse,” Stewart said. “On the side of the building is a plaque that says Tom Calvin Fieldhouse. I always open the window, even if it’s raining, and take a good look at that plaque.”
Calvin coached football at Sylacauga for 21 seasons, winning 134 games and three state championships. In 1978 he became the head coach at Austin and led the Black Bears for 11 seasons. Stewart was a first-team All-State nose guard for the Black Bears in 1982.
“Sometimes there will be somebody with me and I try to explain to them what Tom Calvin meant to me,” Stewart said. “I learned to love football with a passion from playing for Tom Calvin.
“If I had not played for that man, I would not have gone to college and had the great life I’ve had.”
Stewart is being inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame on May 7.
What a life it’s been for Stewart. The young man, who grew up on Modaus Road right next door to where the new Austin High campus sits, played on two national championship teams at Troy and was an assistant coach on a national championship team at Jacksonville State.
Stewart was on the staff at Jacksonville State for two other wins of note. In 2010, the Gamecocks beat Ole Miss, 49-48, in double overtime. In 2021, JSU won at Florida State, 20-17.
“It’s been a wild ride with a lot of good times and a few not so good times,” Stewart said. “The best part has been getting to help kids. That’s why you do it.”
Calvin’s first three seasons at Austin produced a 12-18 record. In 1981, Stewart was a junior and a force in the middle of the Black Bears’ defense at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds.
The Black Bears had lost their first nine games in 1981 heading into the season finale with rival Decatur. Austin got the only score of the game in the second half to take a 7-0 victory.
“I remember going back into the locker room after the game and everyone was so excited because we had finally won a game,” Stewart said. “The feeling was so great that we wanted some more of it. That feeling drove us to succeed the next year.”
In 1982, Austin won nine of 10 games in the regular season, including a 39-8 thumping of Decatur. The Black Bears got the school’s first playoff win ever with a 7-0 victory over Johnson. The playoff run ended the next week with a 14-6 loss to Anniston, but the Black Bears were on the road to future success.
The 1982 Austin defense gave up just 108 points that season for an average of nine points a game.
“The thing I remember most about that season was the Decatur win,” Stewart said. “We were allowed to paint our faces for the first time. That got us all fired up.
“When we came out of the locker room I saw my Mom sitting in her car down past the end zone. She had been sick. They worked it out so she could come to the game. That really got me going.”
Billy Miles was the Austin defensive coordinator that season. He remembers that Decatur game and the painted faces.
“In those days they introduced the starters and they came running out on the field,” Miles said. “When they called out Greg, he came out there like a crazy man and got everybody on the Austin side excited.”
Austin’s defensive alignment had Stewart head up with the opposing team’s center most of the time. In reality, Stewart used his wide body and quickness to dominate opposing offensive lines. His play allowed other teammates to make big plays while he occupied at least two or sometimes three defenders.
“Greg was one of my all-time favorite players,” Miles said. “He had a strong desire to compete. When you have someone like that you just cut them loose and let them play.”
Miles also got to coach Stewart in baseball where he was a star first baseman.
After close to 20 years at Jacksonville, Stewart ventured out and was defensive coordinator at first Louisiana, then Central Arkansas and South Alabama. He then returned to JSU to coach the Gamecocks through a spring season and then last fall before retiring in March.
Last spring, Stewart had a get together with the five outside linebackers he coached on the 1992 national championship team.
“They came with a bouquet of flowers for my wife (Angela),” Stewart said. “Relationships like that are what make coaching football so special.”