A Family Affair
For standout football senior Greg Stewart, being a Jumbo is in the genes.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.20.10] So many members of Jim Stewart's family have gone to Tufts that it took him a minute to count them all. The tenth member of the family to attend Tufts is his son Greg Stewart (A'11), who has made the entire Stewart clan proud as a conference-leading receiver on the Tufts football team.
Greg Stewart is a third-generation Jumbo. His father, Jim (A'81), also played football. Jim's father, Ervyl, graduated in 1946. Several other relatives also have Tufts degrees, and many of them will be in the stands on Oct. 23 to watch Greg and the rest of the Jumbos play their Parents' Weekend game against Williams College.
In addition to their family ties, the friendships that Jim and Greg have made at Tufts make it even more of a special place. Jim's football teammates have been his lifelong friends. Greg says his teammates are the best group of guys he's ever played with. Father and son also share the brotherhood of Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
"The fact that my father and I had a very similar experience and that he feels the same way that I feel about the school is a really big statement about what Tufts football and Tufts in general stands for," Greg says. "I think it shows that the main focus is not scoring touchdowns. Doing well in school and being prepared for a good career when I graduate is important. But just as important is being around great people with similar goals and values. I really have some great friends at Tufts."
The Stewarts are fortunate to be a part of two strong communities. The family's roots in Wilmington, Mass., about 15 miles north of campus, date back to the 1920s. Jim, who is a member of the Wilmington High School Hall of Fame, was quarterback of the 1976 team that advanced to the Massachusetts Division II Super Bowl. As a high school pitcher, he hurled a no-hitter against rival Tewksbury. He also played basketball.
Familiar with Tufts, Jim jumped at the opportunity to get a great education and play two sports. He led the 1978 Jumbo football team in rushing, and also started for the undefeated 1979 team. He and his wife of 25 years, Mary, settled in Wilmington. Greg is the oldest of three children, including Stephen (who plays football at Bentley) and Jennifer (who plays field hockey, basketball and softball at Wilmington High School).
Because Jim kept his trophies and game balls in bags in the basement, the son only heard about his dad's athletic achievements from others. Jim was more interested in teaching his children the right way to succeed.
"It was never an ability thing with him; it was always attitude," Greg says of his father. "He instilled in me that you need to play at your full potential on the field and give 100 percent in class. I really try to work as hard he does in every aspect of my life because he does everything with his best effort."
By the time Greg was a sophomore at Wilmington High School, where he also played basketball and baseball, the father could see that the son had the talent to play football in college. He helped Greg with the logistics of the college recruitment process, but wanted his son to make his own decision.
Greg says he got great advice from Mike Whelan, who at the time was coaching at Williams and now leads the Wesleyan football team. He told Greg that he would just know which college was the right one for him. That was Tufts.
A Winning Decision
"I remember when I picked Greg up from the recruiting weekend at Tufts. During the ride home he turned and said that's where he wanted to go," Jim says. "He had a good connection with the guys there. He liked the coaches, liked the whole feel of it. All of the schools he was looking at were good choices. I'm glad that he found a place that Coach Whelan said he'd find during the process. The fact it was Tufts, that was pretty good with me, too."
Jim had coached Greg's middle school travel basketball team that won their division's championship. The experience they shared in three seasons together left a lasting impression on Greg, who still thinks his father is the best coach he's ever played for. In Tufts football Coach Bill Samko, Greg sees a lot of his dad.
"Coach Samko tells it to you straight," Greg says. "He doesn't talk out of the side of his mouth. That's just how my dad is."
During a preseason practice when Greg was a freshman, Samko strolled by to tell him that he was going to be the team's kicker. Greg had kicked in high school, and an injury had left the Jumbos in need. In the first game of his college career, at Hamilton on September 22, 2007, Greg kicked a 38-year field goal and made all three of his extra points during a 24-7 win.
"I drove up to see the game with no expectations that he would see the field as a freshman, but I wanted to make sure I was there the first time that he put the uniform on," Jim says. "Sure enough, he goes in and kicks a field goal and makes his extra points. That was one of those extremely proud-father moments."
Greg Stewart had much more football in him. As a sophomore in 2008, he played a lead role on special teams and was the gunner for the punt team that led the nation with 1.8 yards allowed. He started at wide receiver in the 2009 opener at Wesleyan, but left the game with a concussion. He then came down with mononucleosis and missed the rest of the season.
This year as a senior, Stewart is one of the leading receivers in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, with 23 catches for 286 yards. He's also returning kicks. After catching 13 passes for 126 yards against Bates, he was popped late in the game and remained down on the field after having the wind knocked out of him. For his family, that put things into perspective.
"There are three priorities for him at school," Jim says. "First and foremost is always his health and well-being. Second, is that he gets a great education. The third is football. I'm very excited for him, but at the end of the day, you can't lose sight of what the priorities are at Tufts."
An economics major, Greg is making the most of the few remaining opportunities to play football in front of his family. His father loves coming back and seeing old friends. His mother Mary, who has been equally influential to his success, will be cheering him on again today. His grandparents, both over 80 years old, have traveled to almost every NESCAC school the past 4 years to watch Greg, and will be in the stands this weekend as well. His brother and sister are in attendance when they don't have a game of their own. His aunts, uncles and cousins have been to many games as well.
"Having family behind you means a lot," Greg Stewart says.
Story by Paul Sweeney, Sports Information Coordinator, Tufts Athletics
Photo by Kelvin Ma, Tufts Photo