Stewart plays like a captain
Kate Gales | Thursday, September 9, 2004
For Jack Stewart, it’s simple to keep his mind on his goals – they’re written underneath his jersey in permanent marker.Along with fellow defender Kevin Goldthwaite, the co-captain of the men’s soccer team takes time to scrawl the letters NGP – “No Goal Patrol” – across his chest before each game. Stewart received Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors for shutting down the opposition’s offense and scoring a few goals of his own, as well. The senior is currently the leading scorer of the 2-0 Irish, drilling a goal in both games this past weekend.”This is very unusual for me,” said the central defender, who had scored two career goals before the start of the 2004 season. “It’s kind of that I was at the right place at the right time.”Although he is expected to be a candidate for an All-American award and the Herman Trophy for collegiate soccer’s most valuable player, Stewart remains unfazed by the attention he and the program are receiving.”I’m supposed to perform at my 100, 110 percent every single game,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without [goalkeeper] Chris [Sawyer] behind me and the guys next to me – the guys I go in the trenches with every single day. It’s a tribute not to myself but to the entire Notre Dame soccer family.”After the weekend’s tournament, assistant coach Brian Wiese attributed the goals to Stewart stepping into a leader’s role in that family.”Jack’s a free spirit and it shows on the field, I think,” he said. “Both were huge goals, and both goals were in the run of play, meaning they weren’t on set pieces.”Stewart played in the midfield before becoming a vital piece of Bobby Clark’s stingy defense, which give him an added edge when penetrating the opposition’s defenses. “I really found my niche,” he said, reflecting upon the position change. “I was just kind of thrown into the position since my sophomore year.”Along with Goldthwaite and Sawyer, the three captains are already leaving their marks on this year’s soccer team.”We all bring different attitudes to the team,” Stewart said. “I’m more of a soft-spoken, laid-back, let’s go have fun type. I’m the one in the middle of the huddle making jokes, and I’ve been doing that since I was a freshman.”Being a team leader has forced him to subtly shift that role.”I can still be the same guy, but I kind of have to have a positive impact on the younger kids and show them this is how it’s done,” he said. “We can have tons of fun but you have to stay focused, work hard at whatever comes their way.”Stewart vividly remembers the impact that older Irish teammates had on him.”[The older players] made me believe we were going to put Notre Dame on the map as a soccer school,” he said. “Everyone knows Notre Dame as a football school – why not try to make it a soccer school? It seemed like a fun challenge, and the guys here … they were just excellent role models.”Stewart and Goldthwaite – who are not only teammates, but roommates – and Sawyer are Clark’s first class to finish under his tutelage; his “babies,” as Stewart said.”It’s been a great experience,” he said. “Whatever happens this season, the senior class that I’ve been here with … we’ve been through hard times, we’ve been through tough times, we’ve been through good times, and Coach Clark has been through thick and thin with us.”Stewart attributes his success to the hard work of his coaches, but especially to Clark.”Coach Clark has probably formed me into the man I’m going to become,” he said. “He’ll settle you down and keep you level-headed.”Although Stewart committed to the University before Clark was named head coach, he knew the program was on the rise.Four years later, the defending Big East champion Irish enter the season with an all-time best preseason ranking of ninth.However, there is still unfinished business for the young 2004 season.”This season I expect to be a national champion,” he said frankly. “I expect to win the Big East [tournament and season titles] … I call it the treble actually, when you win the league, the tournament and the national championship.”I can go without the other two if I can win a national championship,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that’s Kevin and Chris’s focus as well … I’m going to do it for myself, my teammates, the program, but most of all for Coach Clark.”With the No Goal Patrol stepping into the occasional offensive role, the Irish may have a shot at making history – and Stewart doesn’t need a permanent marker to keep that goal in sight.