BOONE — Appalachian State’s defensive line coach Anwar Stewart is well versed in the rules of football on both sides of the Canadian-American border.
Stewart, who was hired to coach the defensive line Feb. 15, knows that in Canada, they use three downs to gain 10 yards for a first down instead of four downs. He knows the length of a Canadian field is 65 yards wide and that an American field is 53 yards. Canadian fields are 110 yards long and have end zones of 20 yards compared to American fields that are 100 yards long with 10-yard end zones.
And don’t get him started on what a “single” is, which used to be called a “rouge.” Those terms have nothing to do with baseball or the home of LSU.
Those factoids relate little to what Stewart can teach the Appalachian State defensive linemen. Teaching them techniques used by professional football players is why he’s at App State.
Stewart knows the rules of American football. He was coaching at Kentucky for the last two years working with the Wildcats’ defensive line. Stewart, a Panama City, Fla., native, returned to Kentucky to get his degree. He started working at Kentucky in 2017 and stayed in Lexington through 2018.
Every now and then, the Canadian football in him would come out with the Wildcats.
“I’d say woah, woah, you’re supposed to punt the ball after two downs,” he said to a group of media gathered at the Hicks Athletic Center. “But it’s great getting back. I spent 16 years in Canada and decided to come back in 2016 and it’s been great.”
More importantly, Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz is counting on the idea that Stewart knows coaching defensive linemen.
Stewart said he reached out to App State defensive coordinator Ted Roof. He also got some other coaches to reach out to Drinkwitz and he got the interview for the job.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Stewart said.
Stewart is anxious to get started with the Mountaineers. He is aware of App State’s defensive success the last two seasons. In 2018, the Mountaineers led the Sun Belt Conference in total defense, pass defense and run defense.
Much of the credit goes to a deep defensive line that rotated players throughout games to stay fresh.
“Appalachian is known for its hard work and tough kids,” Stewart said. “They fly around and, you know what, it was in the cards for me and I’m here.”
Stewart was impressed with the App State defensive line’s team speed and how aggressive they are.
“Just how physical and fast and violent they play,” impressed Stewart the most. “Just a change of direction and the way they can go from zero to 60. A lot of times you get in your gap and you just fit it up and just stay. They get to their gaps and fit it up, but when you have nine or 10 guys that are explosive and are excited to be out there and have the passion for football, you get chills.”
Stewart played defensive line at Kentucky in college, but his playing career took a turn north when he signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. He was released by Calgary, but played with the Alouettes from 2002-11 before returning to the Stampeders in 2012. Stewart played one season in Calgary before returning to the Alouettes in 2013.
Although he was a defensive lineman, the 6-foot-4 Steward weighed 255 pounds during his career. That’s small by NFL standards, which he feels cost him a chance to play professionally with the league.
Stewart said he took an attitude to the CFL and wants to impress on the Mountaineers that if they were overlooked by bigger programs, they have to put in extra work and effort to achieve the success that bigger athletes achieve, be it football or life in general.
“Because I was a certain size, I didn’t really get the NFL opportunity,” Stewart said. “Like a lot of kids here, I was told I wasn’t big enough. I took that and I put it on my shoulder and I worked hard and I didn’t settle for less. I always pushed myself and pushed the guys around me. I was a great leader, I was always early, so when we talk about at this level, put the time in.”
Stewart wants his players to excel on the field, but he also wants them to be aware of other things that are going on in the world outside of the locker room.
“Football is our life, but at the same time it’s not all we think about,” he said. “Just being mentors to the kids is going to help them and I want them to think about what are you doing now that this is almost done? You’ve got to have to have a smooth transition. I was lucky enough to have a smooth transition.”