Last Tuesday I was driving down the road when I got a text from a friend that said Coach Stewart had a heart attack. I immediately pulled over and took a look at my twitter account. The first tweet I read said that he'd passed as a result of the occurrence.
I was stunned. I was floored. I honestly couldn't believe it. "He was only in his fifties. He's so young. He's got a great family. He's in good shape. He's a WVU football coach... aren't they invincible?" ... Just some of the thoughts that went through my head.
I immediately started to think of how I got to know him. First I thought of the couple of hours I spent with him, his wife and his son in 2005 at my office when I worked in Morgantown for Cellular One. I worked with business accounts and Coach Stew had a discount through WVU. I was asked to help him out and I did. I was with them for almost two hours... two hours in which I was able to see what kind of man he was.
Such a happy family... Coach Stew was jolly. His wife had a permanent smile on her face and their son Blaine played basketball on the hoop I had set up on my office wall. We sat and chatted as I worked and I remember thinking after they left, "Wow. What a great family and how nice is Coach Stewart? I am fan"
Then I thought of a couple of years later when I was the account representative for WVU at Cellular One. I worked with anyone and everyone at the school including the Mike Garrison, Ed Pastilong, John Beilein, Bob Huggins and Rich Rodriguez. I recalled a meeting I had with the WVU football coaches where I was supposed to teach them about a cell phone product I didn't know a darn thing about. I was supposed to have assistance from the person who designed the product, but he bailed on me at the last minute. I had to go at it alone. I managed to do it, but struggled. I was stressed and bothered. The WVU coaches were like sharks asking me questions that I didn't know the answers to. Like I said, I managed, but it was less than a stellar performance.
After the meeting was over, one coach came up to me and said, "Son, I thank you for your help today. Keep up the good work." It was Bill Stewart. I didn't deserve the praise, but he took the time to thank me anyway. He was the only person there that thanked me. Not that I expected anyone to do so, but it was nice that someone did. That's the kind of guy he was.
I've read hundreds of similar stories about him since his passing. I wasn't the only person for which he went above and beyond. Pictures, autographs, smiles, help, visits, appearances... he did it all.
I appreciate my memories of him. It was nothing but a pleasure to know him... even if it was only for just a few moments.
Thanks, Coach. Thanks for your dedication.
Let this speech go down as one of the greatest in Mountaineer history. It's Coach Stew's 2008 Fiesta Bowl pregame speech. Be careful. It might just bring a tear to your eye.
As my wife said earlier this week, "It's a shame he isn't around to see
all the great things being said about him." I hope she's wrong, though. I
hope he knows... some how, some way.
"Leave no doubt." That's exactly what Bill Stewart did with those whose lives he touched.