MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Blaine Stewart is no stranger to West Virginia football.
He spent his childhood intertwined with the program as his father, the late Bill Stewart, was a part of the coaching staff for a decade, including as the head coach from 2008-10.
He may have been in Pittsburgh for the past few years, but Morgantown has always been home.
His mother Karen has never left. In fact, she still lives just a few minutes away from Milan Puskar Stadium.
Now, Blaine is back with his mother in the University City, and reunited with the program that was such a big part of his life.
Stewart was named WVU’s tight ends coach in late January after spending the past four seasons with the Steelers.
“When I pulled in for my interview I got goosebumps. I really did,” Stewart said. “When I pull in this parking lot, it brings back a lot of memories.”
For the Stewart family, it’s fair to assume there’s a mix of good and bad memories when they see the WVU football compound.
That’s why Stewart is so appreciative of the way that head coach Neal Brown has worked to re-establish that connection between the Stewart family and the team.
Brown and his staff welcomed Stewart and his mom back to the facility in the summer of 2022, her first time back since her husband was the head coach.
“This is home. For everyone to welcome my mom and I back last summer to show her the building, spend some time with her and let her know that even when I wasn’t working here she should feel comfortable. That meant the world to me,” Stewart said. “That’s why I have so much respect for the program and Coach Brown.”
He added: “The olive branch Coach Brown and the program offered to my mom and I over the last couple of years has been really special.”
Stewart didn’t know during that tour of the upgraded facility that he would find himself working inside of it months down the line.
He was the assistant wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh for the past two seasons, but due to the size of the staff, he often worked with tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts.
Stewart looked at Roberts as a mentor. After conversations about Stewart’s future in the profession, Roberts helped him capitalize on the opportunity to increase his role and his knowledge of the game.
“My goal in football was to get in the tight end room because I needed to expand my knowledge and execution of the run game. I had been meeting with him for two years on tight end play getting ready for hopefully an opportunity like this. This was the perfect fit,” Stewart said.
With the type of players and scheme he was around in Pittsburgh, Stewart felt he would be able to add value to the WVU program. He was involved in five NFL Drafts, one-on-one evaluations with potential draft picks and numerous Pro Days.
He plans on using that experience to aid current athletes have a better understanding of what it takes to make it to the next level.
It’s also a tool he believes will help him connect with prospects on the recruiting trail — the one area that Brown said Stewart was missing when he joined the college ranks.
While being back in Morgantown is a full-circle moment for Stewart, he quite literally hasn’t had the time to do too much reflecting.
“We had a player workout the day I showed up. I came in, went right to a staff meeting on my first Friday, went to position meetings, offensive meetings, then we were out on the practice field,” Stewart said. “It happened pretty quick, but I’ve taken some time to take it all in and really appreciate being back.”
What makes it even more surreal is that pieces of his WVU past are now present in his future with the program.
Tory Johnson Sr. was a tight end with the Mountaineers in the early 2000s, and now his son, Tory Johnson Jr., is part of WVU’s 2023 signing class.
Former quarterback Rasheed Marshall was recently named the team’s director of player relations.
Adam “Pacman” Jones has also been more involved with the program recently as Chris Henry Jr., another Mountaineer legacy, is being recruited by WVU. Jones adopted the sons of his former teammate back in 2021.
“Those were the guys who were in that first wave of Mountaineer football that changed this place in the early 2000s,” Stewart said. “It’s cool to have a relationship not only with those three, but so many guys from the past that have reached out. It’s been cool to almost be a bridge to that era of WVU football.”