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I’m taking the rest of the day off. Time to stuff my face with three dinners. I leave you with this touching story of Temple City’s Joey Stewart.
SOLID SURROUNDINGS SURROUND STEWART
By Miguel A. Melendez
If you ever wonder how Joey Stewart turned out to be the person he is – poised, respectful, hard working and ever so cool – take a closer look at his surroundings.
Stewart has always found himself surrounded by exemplary people,whether it was relatives or family friends. That’s the way his father, Tim, always wanted it to be.
Stewart took a liking in the family friends who would later become an influential part of his life.
But it was his father’s work ethic that made a lasting impression.
And for that, Stewart is most thankful.
Following his father’s example has steadily streamlined its way into just about everything Stewart puts his mind to.
And for that, the Temple City High School football team is grateful.
He’s a brutal force in the backfield, whether it was starting at running back early in the season or since switching over to fullback, wreaking havoc on opposing defenses with his deft blocking skills, brutal force and speed.
But there weren’t always good times.
Last season, Stewart missed eight games after tearing the meniscus on his right knee and watching from the sidelines was probably tougher than the injury itself.
“It was hard not being able to help,” Stewart said. “I didn’t like the feeling of not playing and I didn’t want to imagine how much harder it would be if the same thing happened my senior year.”
Stewart worked hard in the offseason and the results are evident.
He’s thankful for an injury-free season and for another chance to put on his uniform when the Rams square off against Azusa at 7 at Citrus College on Friday night in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.
As Stewart inches closer to his ultimate goal – a CIF-SS title – he looks back on where it all started and is thankful his mother, Guindia, let him play even though she was scared that he might get hurt.
“It was my dad and an old family friend (Henry Chavez) who was a Pee Wee coach and wanted me to play,” Stewart recalled. “My mom was always the one who was scared, but my dad ended up convincing her and I’ve been playing ever since (7 years old).”
Stewart, a 5-foot-11, 185- pound senior, has rushed for nearly 800 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He’s the team’s second-leading tackler behind linebacker Nick Conora.
Stewart admits playing football beyond high school may be difficult given his size. But he plans on enrolling at Rio Hondo College and wants to become a police officer.
Senior defensive end Ryan Watkins, whom he’s known since kindergarten, is one of Stewart’s best friends.
Watkins’ father is a police officer with the Pasadena Police Department, one of the reasons why Stewart has high aspirations to join the police academy. Family friend Tony Chang is a retired police officer from the Monterey Park Police Department who also was influential.
“Growing up, I wanted to do something good,” Stewart said, “helping out one way or another.”
Stewart understands the importance of good company. It’s who you surround yourself that often depicts the person you will become.
“Who you surround yourself is going to direct you one direction or another,” Stewart said. “My dad is a hell of a man. His goal is for me to be better than him, but my goal is to be half the man he is.”
Stewart one summer went on delivery routes with his father and they proved to be more tiring than two-a-days in hell week.
“After two or three stops I’d be very tired and be done for the day,” said Stewart whose father is self-employed. “To see him go through that every day is pretty amazing.
“Seeing what he can do, there’s no reason for me to show anything less. It would be kind of a slap in his face.”
His parent’s hard work has paid off.
Stewart’s sister, Jessica, is in pursuit of a teaching degree after she transfers from Citrus College to Cal State L.A.
Temple City coach Randy Backus is on administrative leave and will not be available for Friday’s game, but his fondness for Stewart is undeniable.
“Joey leads by example, he’s the first guy to practice and the last guy to leave,” Backus said. “He’s been willing to put the team in front of his personal accomplishments from day one. That’s who he is.”
After today’s practice concludes around 11:30 a.m., Stewart will head to his grandfather’s home in San Gabriel. He won’t be thinking of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
The house of Stewart’s uncle, Gene, was unscathed in the recent Yorba Linda fires. The same could not be said, however, of the surrounding homes.
“His house came out of it OK, surprisingly,” Stewart said. “I’ll just be thankful for that, a healthy family and a good football year so far.”
Surrounded at the table with good people, of course.
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4485