Jets’ Stewart an aspiring lawyer with NFL dreams

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Chris Stewart spent his last season at Notre Dame studying constantly.

Law textbooks and football playbooks. Legal defenses and defensive formations.

That was his life _ morning, afternoon and night _ as a law school student who also anchored the Fighting Irish’s offensive line.

“Everybody thought I was nuts,” Stewart said with a big smile. “I think people still think I’m nuts. I even think I’m nuts sometimes. It’s a good preparation for life, though.”

Especially for the rigorous summer days of an NFL training camp. The undrafted free agent left guard still wants to be a lawyer, but he’s got plenty of time for that. He’s focused now only on trying to make the New York Jets‘ roster.

“If it’s not football, it’s not worthwhile,” Stewart said. “I never intended to go to law school and I never intended to do all this stuff. I was blessed enough to do it and I took advantage of it, but this has always been my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted to do was play football, and to actually play for the Jets is even better.”

The jury’s still out on whether he makes it past training camp and earns a spot on the team. Coach Rex Ryan likes Stewart’s aggressive nature. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan says Stewart is a talented, hardworking player.

“He’s an interesting prospect,” Callahan said. “I think he does have a future in this league, absolutely. I’m going to try to do my best to see that he makes it.”

Stewart, 23, is used to taking the difficult road to success, so this is nothing new to him. After redshirting during his freshman year at Notre Dame in 2006, Stewart considered transferring. He had bounced from the offensive line to nose tackle and back to offensive line. Stewart was frustrated and felt out of place.

“It was nerve-racking,” he said. “It kind of taught me how to stick through things, though. The toughest times in my life were probably back then as a sophomore and probably during the NFL lockout. You just have to keep working and try to emerge.”

That’s exactly what Stewart did, becoming a fixture on the Irish’s line and graduating early with a history degree and a 3.5 grade-point average. He then applied for a fifth year of eligibility after the 2009 season and was accepted into Notre Dame Law School.

Instead of choosing between football or law school, Stewart went with both _ a rarity in major college athletics.

“I decided that if I was going to have this time and Notre Dame was paying, I might as well do something worthwhile,” he said. “I did a few internships and decided that was the route I wanted to go. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun at all. But, it was very worthwhile.”

After all, he couldn’t give up on his football dreams, and his parents mostly agreed.

“They were very supportive, but they also thought I was a little crazy,” he said with a laugh. “They basically said that if anyone can do it, I could, so they believed in me.”

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