By Kevin Callahan
Last year, J’wan Steward did much more than watch Brandon Outlaw of the Moorestown High School track team win the 400 meters at the Meet of Champions with a 47.05.
“I trained with him,” Steward said proudly.
Outlaw, who broke 47 seconds at the Penn Relays last April, is a freshman at the University of Virginia while Steward is a senior for the Quakers.
Steward, though, wouldn’t say this is his time now to follow the fleet footsteps of Outlaw. Rather, running track has helped him running the football. And, that’s what he wanted by participating in a spring sport.
“I ran last year and it made me faster and I had a break out season this year,” Steward said about football.
Steward helped the Quakers post a 9-2 record and reach the semifinals of the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs before losing to eventual champion Shawnee.
The 5-foot-7 Steward, who is a rock solid 165 pounds, was part of a talented backfield with quarterback Brian McMonagle and running back Nicholas Cartwright-Atkins that earned the No. 1 seed with an 8-1 regular season record - the only loss was to Woodrow Wilson, the WJFL Royal Division champion, which lost to Delsea in the sectional championship.
So training with Outlaw pushed Steward to a higher level in his primary sport as he ran for 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns in the fall. And that is the beauty and benefit of running track: If it is not your primary sport, running track will help you in that sport.
“It keeps me in shape and keeps me busy and it really makes me work harder for football,” Steward said, sounding old school.
Really, seeing football players participate in track is a win-win for everyone. Pennsauken football coach Clinton Tabb also coaches the Indians track team, which is loaded with football players. At the end of each dual meet,Tabb enters all his football players in the 4x400 relay – yes 300-pound lineman, too.
The Delsea track team is noted for packing its track team with football players and Steward met up with the Crusaders in the sectional finals.
And, in the spring, he’s enjoying more than just training for football through his track experience.
“I like it, we’re outdoors,” Steward said. “I meet new people from everywhere and it’s good competition.”
Moorestown coach Troy Pappas embraces Steward’s attitude.
“He works very, very hard,” Pappas said, “and he has shown developing leadership skills.”
Steward transferred to Moorestown from Leap Academy in Camden following his sophomore year. Steward wanted to play basketball at Leap Academy, but he decided his future was in football so he transferred.
In eighth grade, Steward was a key guard on the Camden Partnership School basketball team that lost to St. Rose of Haddon Heights in the Catholic Youth Organization of Camden County league championship game at Paul VI High School.
“It was a great time of my life,” Steward said about playing grade school basketball. “They were great people and great coaches and made me a better person on and off the court.”
Steward plans to attend a community college in North Jersey next year and then play football at Kean University the following year. He plans to major in business or sports therapy
But first he is leaving his last drop of sweat on the track oval.
Last Friday at the Moorestown Invitational Relays, despite an injury, Steward ran lead off on the sprint medley team that took third place.
“He is really stretching his ability,” Pappas said.
Steward’s admirable traits extend beyond the athletic arena.
“He’s a very respectful young man,” Pappas said. “He always refers to me as sir, not coach. He will do very well in life and he will complement any program.”