FULTONDALE | Considering his was the first signing ceremony at Fultondale High in nearly 30 years, ArDarius Stewart didn't make a big deal of his choice of the University of Alabama Wednesday. The do-it-all athlete from this small town north of Birmingham was in and out of the Wildcats gymnasium in a matter of minutes.
But outgoing coach Keith Register expects Stewart to have a much more long-lasting impact on the Crimson Tide.
"They're getting more than a player. They're getting a fine young man. He's way more than a player. I've got young kids who he treats like his brothers and sisters," Register said. "He puts others first, and he is very loyal. You'll have signees all across the country today -- how many of them picked Alabama first, and finished with Alabama with no hat tricks or any of that? It's been Alabama the whole time."
Stewart had Fultondale's senior football players join him at the table for his signing, along with his parents and other family members. Register said Stewart is Fultondale High's first signee since 1984, and the school's first-ever signee entering the Southeastern Conference. He expects to begin his college career at wide receiver, but also played safety at Fultondale and, according to Register, has college potential on both sides of the ball.
"He can play defense, too. He can come in the alley and make some great licks. He ended up playing a safety for us," Register added. "We played a lot of cover-3. We rolled him into the box a lot and played some outside linebacker and even defensive end."
Stewart also hopes to compete for a special teams role.
"My freshman year, I'm just wanting to get in there and learn, learn everything I can. If they want to start me, if they want to redshirt me, that's fine with me," Stewart said.
Stewart compiled 9,399 all-purpose yards in his career, and accounted for 132 touchdowns, both of which are Fultondale High records and, according to Register, rank in the top 10 in state history.
Academically, Register said Stewart should have no issues qualifying for enrollment.
"He had all Bs and As this past (term). He's going to be fine," Register said. "Like a lot of young kids, he messed around a little too much his ninth and tenth grade year, but he has put in a lot of work since then."
Stewart said he plans to enroll at Alabama in early June for the first term of UA summer school, which is typical for most incoming UA signees.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.