Hundreds of young athletes around southwest Georgia dream of being where Grover Stewart is. According to statistics, less than one tenth of one percent of the high school football players in America fulfill their dream of making it to the NFL. That means Stewart was one out of 10,000 that made it. He made it to the NFL in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2017 and now he is in the middle of the defense each Sunday.

The former Albany State and Mitchell County star is the starting nose guard for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League and will be lined up to stop the Houston Texans next Sunday in Indianapolis, on his 26th birthday. Stewart came back for homecoming at Albany State this weekend and also spent time trying to inspire some young football players at Pelham and Mitchell County High Schools.

Stewart, who played for Pelham coach Dondrial Pinkins while Pinkins coached at Mitchell County, roamed the sidelines and talked to Pelham players Friday night while the Hornets blew out Stewart County 83-6. Saturday night, he was on the sideline with players from his alma mater, Mitchell County, as the Eagles routed Calhoun County 61-0.

“Grover is really in a position to inspire a lot of young men,” Pinkins said. “It was my first coaching job when I met Grover and he didn’t want to play football. He was a real challenge. He didn’t even play in the 10th grade. I basically had to beg him to play to start with. And now, here he is.”

Where he is – the starting nose tackle for one of the NFL’s leading teams. How do more of southwest Georgia’s dreamers get there?

“I was told a long time ago, ‘To be able to make a withdrawal, you have to make a deposit’,” Stewart said sitting on the sidelines at Centennial Stadium in Camilla. “I talk to a lot of these guys and they get it, they understand. But, for some reason, it doesn’t stick.”

Stewart said during his high school playing days, once he committed to football, he didn’t have time for the things most high schoolers do.

“I didn’t have time to go out and hang out playing games and stuff like that,” Stewart said. “While they were going out, I was working out. I was studying. I was studying myself and how I could make myself better. You know it’s great to have a dream, but to make it come true you have to work harder than anybody else.”

It helps that Stewart has the necessary size. At 6’4, 330 pounds, Stewart fits the mold needed for an NFL defensive lineman. Pinkins also said Stewart had a natural ability.

“He has a God-gifted ability,” Pinkins said. “He works hard, and he has talent.”

It is rare for players at Albany State to get drafted as well, so Stewart beat the odds from Mitchell County High School and from Albany State.

“One of the big reasons some of these guys don’t make it is lack of exposure,” Stewart said. “They just don’t get seen. Another reason,” he said, “the competition in Division II just doesn’t prepare you for the NFL like Division I. Now Coach White had us ready when I was at Albany State,” he said as he showed his Albany State SIAC championship ring.

Stewart said he doesn’t come home often, but when he gets the opportunity, he enjoys meeting the players and talking with them. He said he was fortunate that homecoming weekend turned out to be a bye week for Indianapolis and he was able to get to three games.

For small class A schools like Pelham and Mitchell County and a small division II college like Albany State, the teams are loaded with talent and desire. Maybe that visit home will help another one of these young men understand what it takes to be where Grover Stewart is.

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