Kordell Stewart – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of FameFootball Player, 1988-2005
John Ehret H.S./University of Colorado/NFL
From the hard-scrabble streets of New Orleans to growing up in Marrero, Stewart beat a path filled with dogged determination, a burning desire to achieve at the highest level.
“We weren’t blessed with an abundance of things but I was determined to make it and make it big,” Stewart said. “I had that burning desire as a competitor from the time I was young.”
Borrowing an often-used phrased, the mission was accomplished.
Stewart grew up playing at Mike Miley Playground in Metairie to what is now Johnny Jacobs Playground in Marrero. He burst onto the football scene at John Ehret High School as the consummate dual threat quarterback. In his senior season (1991), Stewart accounted for 40 touchdowns, including 23 rushing and 17 passing as he led the Patriots to the Class 5A state playoffs.
“We made the playoffs every year at Ehret,” Stewart said. “We could not get over the hump but we had good teams. Coach Billy North was instrumental in my development. He moved me from cornerback to quarterback. The rest is history.”
Earning a scholarship to Colorado, Stewart did not take long to make his mark, completing 21-of-36 passes for a then school-record 409 yards and four touchdowns as the Buffaloes downed rival Colorado State 37-17 in his first career start as a sophomore in 1992.
Stewart put up prolific numbers for the Buffaloes, amassing 7,770 yards of total offense which included 6,481 yards passing and 33 touchdowns while rushing for 1,289 yards and 15 scores.
Stewart’s crowning achievement was one of the most memorable plays in recent college football history in his senior season on Sept. 24, 1994 when he connected on a 64-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook on a “Hail Mary” pass on the final play of the game as Colorado shocked Michigan 27-26 at “The Big House” at Ann Arbor.
With Stewart at the helm, Colorado finished in the top 10 in both the Associated Press and Coaches’ polls in 1992 and 1994. Stewart guided the Buffaloes to victories in the 1993 Aloha Bowl and the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.
“The experience of being in a place that was more beautiful than my imagination was special at Colorado,” Stewart said. “It is so scenic. It was a quality education and a great football experience. Those may have been the best four years of my life.”
Stewart was a second-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995 and became the Pittsburgh quarterback on a full-time basis in 1997. In his 11-year NFL career (eight with the Steelers), Stewart threw for 14,746 yards and 77 touchdowns while rushing for 2,874 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was part of four playoff teams, leading Pittsburgh to the AFC Championship game in 1997 and 2001.
“Playing in the NFL was amazing,” Stewart said. “I was told I was not good enough to play quarterback at that level. I went on to do so, lead teams to the playoffs and made the Pro Bowl.”
His prowess as a passer, runner and receiver earned him the nickname “Slash,” given to him by Steelers radio analyst Myron Cope.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame honor is one that Stewart wants to share.
“This award exemplifies not just what I was capable of doing but what was given to me and taught to me,” Stewart said. “My mom and dad, my coaches, my teammates are the reason for this, a big part of this recognition. It is such an honor to be recognized by my hometown and the Allstate Sugar Bowl. There has been so much talent that has come through New Orleans. It is a huge honor to be added to such a wonderful list of honorees.”
Story submitted by Ken Trahan of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.