As expected, there was an amazing amount of football talent on display at this weekend’s high school state championship games at the Georgia Dome.
Out of the dozens of recruits who will eventually sign football scholarships with major colleges, I thought the best player I saw in the Georgia Dome was Brad Stewart, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior out of Savannah’s Benedictine Military School.
On Saturday, Stewart made what is simply being called “The Catch” (via ScoreAtlanta’s Craig Sager II)
Never heard of Brad? Apparently, neither have many BCS conference programs. He’s rated as the state’s No. 146 overall prospect.
I first saw Brad at last December’s Elite Junior Classic. Brad was one of the last players invited to the all-star game that features many of the state’s top juniors. The tall and lanky kid from South Georgia didn’t look too imposing at the hotel check-in but everything changed once they put on the pads.
Stewart was easily one of the top 2-3 players on his team in the practices, and that team included at least three prospects that are currently ranked as 5-stars. In the actual game, Stewart again produced in a big way, catching a 41-yard touchdown pass. Probably even more impressive was his hustle for a downfield block to spring a teammate’s long touchdown run.
“That young man can play with anybody,” said legendary Brookwood coach Dave Hunter, one of the all-star game’s organizers.
Flash forward to Saturday: Stewart put on another show for the entire state to see in Benedictine’s win over Greater Atlanta Christian for the Class AA state championship.
On offense, Stewart had four catches for 154 yards and one touchdown. On the score, Stewart showed off his 38-inch vertical by leaping over GAC defensive back Micah Abernathy (committed to Tennessee) for a circus catch. (Abernathy played well, too, rushing for 186 yards).
On defense, Stewart was just as impressive. He had two clutch interceptions that prevented GAC’s comeback. He also turned another one of his patented “hustle plays” that don’t make the box score. When a teammate picked up a fumble, he raced downfield to make a key block that allowed Benedictine to score a touchdown on the play.
One scout on Saturday said that Stewart reminded him of a Terry Hoage, the former UGA All-American safety: “Cerebral with his approach to football, no wasted steps, can see the play developing before it happens, always in the right place, sure tackler, and – most importantly — vastly underrated athleticism. Have you seen him jump? And his body control while he’s in the air? Ridiculous.”
Here’s 247sports recruiting analyst Rusty Mansell on Stewart: “I’ve watched a lot of tape on him. He has ball skills, and he has the size. He just makes plays. The only question is his top-end speed but I will say that on the tapes that I’ve watched, I haven’t seen anybody catch him from behind.”
Stewart has offers from Marshall, Cincinnati, Navy, Yale and smaller schools. But it’s a mystery to me on why SEC/ACC schools aren’t taking a closer look, especially since Stewart has repeatedly proven his ability against elite competition. He’s simply one of the best WR/DB combos I’ve seen in more than 20 years of covering Georgia high schools.
So I asked his coach about it.
“I definitely think he can play in the SEC or ACC — or for anybody,” Benedictine coach Danny Britt told me. “I’ve seen him play against some of the best. At the Elite Junior Classic, I thought he was the best player on the field, and some of the other coaches there thought the same thing. He consistently beat several guys that you hear a lot about in the recruiting rankings.
“I’ve seen him go up against guys all season that have those big offers and he outshines them consistently. I definitely believe he is a player that has been overlooked a little bit.
“I think it was fitting that Brad had the game he did on Saturday. He’s an incredible player that has a special ability to go get the ball and to hang in the air. That’s something a lot of people just can’t do. He’s fearless with attacking the football in the air. Add that to the fact that he’s an extremely disciplined kid with a 4.24 GPA and an unbelievable ACT score (28), it makes him a special player.
“What else do the colleges need to see? I really don’t know.”
Stewart, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, put up big numbers all season for the traditionally run-oriented Benedictine: He had 71 receptions for 1,454 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
Even Saturday’s performance against a stout GAC secondary wasn’t unusual. In the first meeting between the two teams in the regular season last August, Stewart caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the close loss.
I asked Stewart if there were any schools he would like to be evaluated by? He likes Hoage’s alma mater. “Some of the bigger schools like Georgia, they are doing really well in recruiting. I still talk to their coach from time to time. They are doing really well in recruiting, so I understand the situation. That’s good for them but if something happened and a scholarship opened up, that’d be one place I’d like to go.”
Stewart also had a pretty good relationship with Vanderbilt’s staff last year before the coaching change. Right now, Stewart said he’s “pretty much open” to any schools that are interested in him.
Editor’s note: As long as I’ve been in this business, you just know it when you see a special player. Brad is one of those kids. He has what I like to call the “it factor.” I mean, what is there for SEC and ACC schools not to like about Brad? He is being recruited by Ivy League schools, so you probably won’t have to worry about him going to class or making good grades. You could even probably put him on some type of academic scholarship, if the numbers were tight. He attends a military high school, so he may have a little more discipline and adapt to the changes of college life better than your average prospect. As far as football, yes he plays in Class AA but he has gone head-to-head against SEC/ACC commits in the all-star game and practices, and his own team’s games this season. Just watch the film to see on how he performs against the prospects you’ve heard about already. Stewart can play either safety or wide receiver, and he also returns punts. He can jump out of the gym, and he never gets caught from behind on film. He plays his best in the biggest games on the biggest stages. What am I missing here, folks?
RELATED: My runner-up for Georgia Dome MVP was a kid who earned an offer from UGA the next morning after Saturday’s game. You can read about it HERE.
Here’s Brad Stewart’s highlight film below. Please watch it and post your evaluation in the comments …
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