Teammates usually refer to right tackle David Stewart as “Big Country” or sometimes “Big Stew” because of his 6-7, 318-pound frame.
One nickname Stewart will never have to answer to, however, is “Big Talker.”
That’s because on a roster of 80 players with 80 different personalities, to most, Stewart would rank No. 80 in terms of being a conversationalist.
Asked what the longest conversation he had ever had with Stewart was, fullback Casey Cramer answered, “I don’t know, but it didn’t involve any words. It was more grunts.”
To which loquacious running back LenDale White added, when asked, “It’s like talking to one of Hank Hill’s buddies [Boomhauer] on King of the Hill. He kind of mumbles. You know what I’m talking about?”
But Cramer said Stewart is the gentle giant type, and teammates can read and draw from him, even if he isn’t much for words.
“The good thing about Dave is he’s always got a smile or look for you, so you know exactly how he’s feeling, which is refreshing,” Cramer said. “I enjoy people that you know how they’re doing at all times. Most people have to do that through words, but Dave can do it by facial expressions, body expressions and overall demeanor.”
Stewart says that’s just the way he is and always has been – a man of few words, but one who wreaks havoc on a football field with a nasty streak and an ability to agitate opposing players by playing to the echo of the whistle on every play.
If there is any shot toward the end of a play in the pile, chances are Stewart is nearby – a stark contrast from his off-field demeanor to be sure.
So just how quiet is Stewart? Well, here is the conversation from interviewing him for this story.
Reporter: “Are you always this quiet?”
Reporter: “What’s the longest conversation you’ve ever had with anyone here?”
Stewart: “Around here, pretty short.”
Reporter: “Do you have long conversations at home with your wife?”
Stewart: “I try to keep those short too.”
Reporter: “Have you always been this way?”
Stewart: “Pretty much.”
Apparently, Stewart has always been the strong, silent type. Jack Harris, his former offensive line coach and history teacher at Lawrence County High School in Moulton, Ala., recalls pretty much the same type of quiet demeanor from Stewart back then as well.
“Whenever you’d say something to David in field house he’d just sort of smile at you,” Harris recalled. “He really was not a big talker at all. I would guess he would probably be more open with his real close buddies than the coaches. And in class, he sat right on the front, did his work, kept and his mouth shut.”
Harris recalled fondly Stewart knocking a defensive end from a rival school about 10 yards back without ever breaking stride as a pulling guard on a toss sweep play for Lawrence County.
And he tells the story of giving Stewart tips about how to answer essay questions in his American history class back there in Moulton, Ala. That apparently was a lesson that stuck with Stewart long after his high school days were gone.
“In U.S. history, he had a little problem writing to begin with, so I helped show him how to answer essay questions. He caught on to it pretty quick and did a real good job,” Harris said. “His senior at Mississippi State, I went into a little store on a Sunday afternoon and ran into David as he was coming out with his fiancée.
“He introduced us, and she asked him, ‘Is this the guy that taught you how to block?’ and he said, ‘No, this is the guy that taught me how to write essays.’”
For all his quietness, there is one subject that will draw Stewart out of his shell – hunting and fishing.
“When we talk about hunting or fishing, he’ll tell you quite a few stories about that or what he’s been doing in the off-season,” offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “Football, it’s more that he sticks to the facts, and he’ll answer any question we have for him.”
Center Kevin Mawae says his longest conversations with Stewart involve hunting and fishing as well. What else would you expect from a man who listed Dale Hollow Lake in Celina, as his “favorite vacation spot” in the Titans 2009 media guide?
“We’ve had long dialogues before. He prefers to talk in a hunting vernacular and stuff like that, which is great, because that’s what a bunch of us like to do,” Mawae said.
Quarterback Kerry Collins can attest that the subject will bring out the chattiness in Stewart. He and the right tackle have been hunting together in the area on occasion for turkey and deer.
“I’ve been hunting with him several times, turkey hunting, deer hunting. Out on the field, [he doesn’t say] a whole lot. He’s a pretty quiet guy in general, too,” Collins said. “But if we’re not in the same [tree] stand, he’ll text me all the time, saying, ‘Do you see anything.’ He’ll text your ear off.”
And while he’ll never be mistaken for Jeff Foxworthy, teammates say the down home Stewart does have a sly sense of humor on occasion.
“Country does [have a sense of humor]. You’ve got to be around to hear and see it,” Mawae said.
Cramer says if guys are doing activities on the giant physio balls in the training room, that they have to know exactly where Stewart is at all times.
“If you’re doing some physio ball crunches and he’s walking by, he’ll give that ball a quick kick and you’ll be on your back on the floor wondering what happened,” Cramer said.
But mostly, Stewart is quiet. That’s just him. He’s fine with it, and so are his coaches and teammates.
“You don’t want all the guys to be the same,” Munchak said. “Just like coaches, Wash [defensive line coach Jim Washburn] is one way, I’m a different way. There are different ways to get results. I think Dave is the same way. That’s his way and it works for him.
“He doesn’t mind people saying he’s quiet. He’s not gonna change. He speaks with his actions, [not] his words.”