Keeping the faith: Northern’s Stewart signs with Elizabeth City State

Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:21 PM

A highlight video on Youtube led to an on-campus workout. The workout led to a phone call on Tuesday.

That still didn’t prepare Northern Vance’s Benjamin Stewart for the golden fax that arrived Wednesday, signaling a scholarship offer to play football at Elizabeth City State.

“I never thought this was going to happen, but I didn’t take no for an answer,” said Stewart, a defensive back. “I just kept the faith.”

Stewart’s coach, Eric Watkins, expected the offer to come Tuesday night. It didn’t.

Watkins was surprised when he received the offer via fax early Wednesday morning.

“I was happy, joyful, because the kid deserves it,” said Watkins.

Elizabeth City State competes in the Division II CIAA. The Vikings have made the CIAA Championship Game each of the past two seasons, falling both times to Winston-Salem State, Watkins’ alma mater.

Stewart’s action was limited last season due to an injury. He earned first-team all-conference honors this past season and was one of 20 Vikings who earned academic all-conference honors.

“That’s what we’re trying to do at Northern, get the kids to understand one thing: you’re a student first, an athlete second,” said Watkins. “Make the grades, get the opportunity to leave Vance County and get a free education somewhere.”

Stewart, who finished with six interceptions, also earned Watkins’ Coach’s Award, a distinction based on leadership skills.

“When I got here back in June, he was one of the top ones that showed the leadership being a senior,” said Watkins. “He always carried himself well, did what we asked him to do. First one there, last one to leave.”

Watkins said Stewart, listed at 5-foot-10, reads well, covers well and is always willing to take on the opponents’ best receiver.

Stewart, who intends on double majoring in sports management and business, said he wants to work on his strength and speed at the next level.

“They told me if I work hard I can probably get some playing time my freshman year,” said Stewart. “It’s going to be a big step, but I think I can get ready for it.”

 

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.