Jonathan Stewart hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
The 2005 Timberline High graduate, who will begin his fifth year in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers, was back in Lacey on Friday to host his third annual football camp at South Sound Stadium. Around 300 boys and girls, ages 7-18, will attend the two-day camp, including high school-age players for the first time.
Besides Stewart, other instructors with NFL experience were two of Stewart’s teammates at Carolina – running back Josh Vaughan and quarterback Derek Anderson – plus Seattle Seahawks defensive back Walter Thurmond III, former Seahawks running back Justin Forsett (now with Houston), wide receiver Kenny Moore (Pittsburgh), and defensive back Jairus Byrd (Buffalo). Also instructing were area high school coaches, including Timberline’s Nick Mullen and Olympia’s Bill Beattie.
Stewart, who lives full-time in Charlotte, N.C., spoke with The Olympian on Friday. As a senior at Timberline in the fall of 2004, the 5-foot-10 Stewart became Washington’s all-time leading prep rusher, totaling 7,755 yards for his high school career. He was drafted by the Panthers at No. 13 overall out of Oregon in 2008. In four seasons in the NFL, Stewart has rushed for 3,500 yards and scored 26 touchdowns.
What do you envision for the future of your youth football camp?
Eventually, I hope to use all this grass (behind South Sound Stadium and Chinook Middle School), and having it open to more kids in Tacoma and maybe even Seattle. Just giving back and having things accessible to kids to better themselves as athletes, people, having the hands-on experience with athletes. When I was younger, I didn’t have anything like this. Everything was up in Seattle with the Seahawks. Since this is where I’m from, to be able to have this platform, it only makes sense to make it as big as possible. I’m only here a certain amount of time on Earth. My legacy has to go on somehow and this is what I want. I want my legacy to be this football camp.
What do you want these kids to take away from your camp?
Gaining confidence in themselves. (I want them to say) I can better myself, do things I’ve learned at Jonathan Stewart’s camp, whether it’s how to compete, specific drills, meeting people, meeting friends from other schools and being in that competitive atmosphere where I can take that to my team or take that down the road in life goals. It doesn’t always have to be in sports. It can be classroom, and it can be people they meet. Always working to better yourself.
What do you miss about Lacey?
On days like this (81 degrees and clear skies), everything. Just the familiarity of everything. Reminiscing a little bit of where I used to hang out; Applebee’s and Jack in the Box. That type of crowd. Being around familiar faces and seeing people who have been by my side growing up. It’s just really humble to be here.
Is there anything about your offseason training that would surprise fans?
My offseason training is not as overworked as people think. As much as you work out and as long as the seasons are, you have to have time to rest. There’s a lot of time relaxing and resting. Not so much pounding. There’s maybe a total of two months of working out. And then everything else is relaxing and maintenance-type workouts. You have to find that equal balance when you’re talking about your body as being a briefcase. Treat your body right.
How was it playing with quarterback Cam Newton, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner?
It was amazing. The kid came in there and showed the world no matter what you say or what you think, the sky is the limit. That’s the mentality a lot of pro athletes have. That’s the greatest example from last year. The guy comes in and has the world looking at him in a view of what will he do. He goes out there and does what he believes and knows what he can do with his ability and talent. He goes out there and shows the world (what) he has.
How would you describe your first four years in the NFL?
Quick. I’m already going into my fifth year. It’s been cool. We’ve had our ups and downs. My first year was really successful as a team. Having that hunger the last three years of wanting to get back to that playoff feeling. I think we’re finally there.
What is your approach as you head into your final year of your contract with Carolina?
Same approach as I do every year. It’s always been the same. Just be consistent. The only way you can do that is truly play every game, every year like it’s your last. That’s the way you live your life. You never know what tomorrow brings. You have to stay ready and live your life the best you can live it.
Are you starting to feel like you know your place in the NFL? Do you feel like a veteran?
I do feel like a veteran now. Even though I’m 25, I’ve invested my actual vet years. I’m considered a vet. It feels like I know what to do. I know what the motions are. Even though I’m 25, I’m still young.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473