The countdown to the 2018 college football season is on. Four FCS teams are in action Aug. 25 as Duquesne takes on UMass, Prairie View faces Rice and North Carolina A&T and Jacksonville State square off in ESPN’s FCS Kickoff.
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HERO Sports is going to count down each day by highlighting the best player in FCS football who wears the jersey number of the number of days to kickoff. You can find the running list of top players here.
*Note: Jersey numbers are from the 2017 season.
97: Chris Stewart, senior defensive lineman – Sam Houston State
P.J. Hall received a ton of attention on the Bearkats defensive line in 2017. It was well deserved, seeing as he was selected by Oakland in the second round of the NFL Draft. While offenses focused on Hall, Stewart became one of the best FCS defensive linemen in his own right. In his first season at SHSU, the Wake Forest transfer formed a dominant duo with Hall.
At 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, Stewart was fourth on the team with 66 tackles. He tied Hall for the team lead with 19 tackles for loss while his 13 sacks led the Bearkats and ranked second in the FCS. Stewart became a major problem for offenses once he settled into the defense and moved from the interior to defensive end, going from one tackle in the season-opener to 15 tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks in a 34-27 win against Kennesaw State in the quarterfinals.
“Chris is just a mismatch in terms of his athleticism and his speed,” SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler told The Huntsville Item in November. “I think right now he’s like third in the country in sacks and I’m convinced that if he had played defensive end the whole year, he’d be No. 1 in the country in sacks. He gives us a unique structure in terms of all the guys that we can throw at an offense with our defensive line.”
Stewart, who should see plenty of NFL interest throughout the course of his senior year, was a 2017 HERO Sports Third Team All-American and was also voted the FCS Fan Choice Newcomer of the Year.
Welcome to the sack show! Chris Stewart is your host! #EatEmUpKats pic.twitter.com/2xz3lvKyoj
— Sam Houston Football (@BearkatsFB) November 4, 2017
FCS Kickoff Countdown: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
CFB Countdown: The Best Player in FBS Football, 1-99