Still Limping Through Season, Running Back Jonathan Stewart Remains A Key To Panthers’ Success
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By Ted Fleming
Jonathan Stewart, Running Back #28
Hometown: Lacey WA
Professional Experience: 5 years
Around draft time earlier this year there were rumors Jonathan Stewart could be traded, even though he said at the time it would come as a surprise if it happened. Despite being the second leading rusher in franchise history after being plucked in the first round (13th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Panthers already had a running back signed to a long-term deal–DeAngelo Williams–so all the chatter did not seem unreasonable.
“We didn’t even consider it,” General Manager Marty Hurney said at the time. “He’s a valuable player for us. All you have to do is look is look at his production. I think you look at it as if you try to add as many weapons as possible on offense, regardless of position. And Jonathan and DeAngelo have been a proven to be a solid 1-2 punch for us. They have been a proven commodity, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose Jonathan.”
Nothing happened then, but something did happen in August – a five-year contract extension worth $36.5 million with $22.5 million guaranteed and the possibility that the overall value could be in excess of $42 million. The money was quite similar to what Williams got ($21 million guaranteed), but the team had two premier backs who are expected to be around for many years to come.
Stewart’s value to the team is without question because, like Williams, he is a dual threat having piled up 3,500 rushing yards, 702 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns – 26 on the ground – in the first four years of his NFL career. In each of those years he ran for at least 761-yards, his best season coming as a sophomore breaking the 1,000-yard barrier for the first and only time.
Struggling to get untracked this year because of a recurrence of an ankle injury, Stewart had played in just three of the Panthers’ first five games with 107 yards on the ground, but he has four receptions for 40-yards and a touchdown. He helped key an important win over the New Orleans Saints with 11 carries for 51 of Carolina’s 219 total yards on the ground. It has proven to be the team’s only victory of the year thus far.
While at the University of Oregon, Stewart came out after his junior year, a spectacular one at that. With a 6.2 average gain per carry, he rushed for 1,722-yards and 11 TDs leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record to finish 23rd in the Final AP Poll.
Born Jonathan Creon Stewart, he attended Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington and had many collegiate suitors after being named ESPN.com’s No. 2 prep recruit in the country. The Seattle Times boldly rank him as the state’s fifth-greatest running back of all time. The numbers might have something to do with that – 7,755 rushing yards with 96 TDs and going over the 1,000-yard mark all four years.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.