July 2, 2019

Steward Relishing ‘Longest Serving’ Label

It may simply say more about the number of player departures prior to this season, but at first glance, it’s hard to believe he is now the club’s longest serving player. What that longevity also means is that Hunter Steward has been in this situation before. Although this is the first time he has started a season with three consecutive losses, the club’s 2013 first-round draft pick is no stranger to adversity. Now he’s relishing the opportunity to guide some of the younger players through it as they search for that elusive first victory of the season this Saturday against the equally-desperate Toronto Argonauts.

“The vibe is good. There’s no panic and even though we’re 0-3, it’s just urgency,” said the veteran Steward following Tuesday’s practice.

“Attention to detail right now is the biggest thing. Just keep chopping wood. Just keep going to work. You can’t ride the highs and lows; you’ve got to stay equal. Every championship I’m sure is won in a different way and the team kind of learns that and builds that as the year goes on. You can try and mould it to past experiences but every year and every team is different. We just have to try and find our own path.”

If there is a silver lining to the mini-slump to start things off, it is the fact Steward and the big guys up front have churned out two solid performances. The most recent in Calgary saw John White emerge as a force in the backfield with 161 all-purpose yards. Most importantly, they kept quarterback Mike Reilly upright for four quarters.

“We played pretty well against Calgary and unfortunately didn’t get the W so that goes on everyone. You can’t point fingers,” he said.

“We (the offensive line) got to be better in certain areas as well. You just got to stay even-keel and get back to work against Toronto.”

This week’s opponent also reminds Steward of some of the recent change in the day-to-day routine with his old offensive line coach Dan Dorazio now guiding the big men in the big smoke. Having Bryan Chiu now in that position here has allowed him and the other returnees up front to experience the best of both worlds.

“He’s great,” said Steward of his new position coach.

He’s a really good coach, real easy to get along with. I talk to (him) outside of meetings, outside of football. You can tell he played in the league a long time too. It’s a different feel. Two different coaching styles, I guess. I loved working with Dan, he’s a fantastic coach, and I love working with Chiu. He’s a fantastic coach in his own right. You can definitely tell there’s a little bit of a difference because he played pretty recently in the league. There’s a little different feel with that.”

Another adjustment he’s had to make- one that further speaks to his status as a trusted veteran- was switching from guard to centre for the first two games of the season. Considering he had never played the position in his life, it was a pretty bold assignment.

“It was a big change. It’s a lot different being in the middle of everything,” he explained.

“You have to kind of open your brain up to both sides a little differently. I liked it, I enjoyed it and I embrace it. Hopefully, I can get back to it in the future at some point but right now I’m focused I’m where I’m at.”

Seeing as he’s been at this for awhile now, it should go without saying that getting in the win column trumps every other priority. Having two teams scrapping and clawing for that first victory adds even more intrigue to this matchup.

“We’re desperate for a win, they’re desperate for a win. You put two hungry animals in a cage, they’re going to fight for it and it’s going to be a battle,” stated the versatile lineman.

And he’ll be sure to exchange some pleasantries with Dorazio, one of the men who helped him become a mainstay in this league.

“Probably after the game,” said Steward.

“Dan is always locked in. I’ll try and find him after the game and say hello to him, absolutely.”

And if the pupil is the one smiling more than the teacher, then it’s mission accomplished for the wily veteran Steward.

Matt Baker: