Wilmington High School senior Chris Stewart won the 48th Lombardi Award Monday night at the Kelly Center McCoy Room on the Wilmington College campus.

Elizabeth Huber | News Journal

If Chris Stewart had his way, he probably wouldn’t even have been a candidate to win the Clinton County Lombardi Award.

Though he was “always the biggest kid on the field,” Stewart admits he wanted the ball in his hands.

“I did want to run the ball,” Stewart said just moments after winning the 48th annual Clinton County Vince Lombardi Down Lineman of the Year Award Monday night.

Being the biggest and “dominating” kids in junior and high school as a blocker is too valuable for any team, so Stewart was a lineman all the way and that turned out to be a good thing for him and the Wilmington High School football team.

Stewart nearly had his chance to line-up in the backfield and carry the ball but “unfortunately that didn’t happen. A touchdown for a big guy would have been awesome.”

Instead, Stewart and his offensive line teammates paved the way for the Hurricane this season to rush for more than 170 yards per game while passing for more than 180 yards per contest.

“Our duty is to protect the running backs, the quarterback,” said Stewart, a towering but svelte 6-5, 301 pounds. “If we don’t do our job, the offense can’t do its job. Basically, our job is to march our team down the field and score points. If we don’t do our job and the offense can’t do its job, the defense goes back out on the field and we can’t have that.”

Stewart didn’t play football until seventh grade and even then it wasn’t a given. After not playing pee-wee football, Stewart hoped to put on the pads in junior high.

“All my friends and even my brother played and I wanted to get out there and see what it was like,” he said. “I was a little bit disappointed. My middle brother Andrew started playing in middle school and he got hurt. My mom didn’t want to let me play.”

Eventually, Stewart was able to play and “I’ve been with it ever since,” he said.

Though he never carried the ball as an offensive player, Stewart said he nearly had his chance at lineman glory against Miami Trace. “Actually I recovered (a fumble) at Miami Trace and would have been in the end zone,” he said. “But it was called down. They called it down at the 1 yard line.”

Stewart was among seven nominees for the Lombardi Award this season. This was the first time the award has been given since 2019. It started in Clinton County in 1973 but this senior class has never had the opportunity to win the award until this year.

“I knew about it (the Lombardi Award) in middle school,” Stewart said. “I thought my brother was going to win it but it went away and he graduated in 2021. I did know about it. My dad always wanted us to win it.”

So as the nominees were positioned in front of those in attendance at the Kelly Center McCoy Room on the Wilmington College campus Monday night, Stewart grew anxious as the announcement of the winner was delayed by the reading of the event sponsors.

“I was just nervous,” said Stewart. “Well, I wouldn’t say nervous … maybe like a little bit but I thought I deserved it and here I am, I won.”

A year-by-year listing of the winners of the Clinton County Vince Lombardi Down Lineman of the Year Award:

1973: Don Hamilton, WHS

1974: Dwayne Wilson, WHS

1975: Russell Kidd, BHS

1976: Joe Kratzer, BHS

1977: Jeff Homan, CMHS

1978: Mark Volz, BHS

1979: Tim Nelson, ECHS

1980: Keith Zurface, WHS

1981: Trent Hawk, WHS

1982: Kevin Lansing, BHS

1983: Tony Brausch, CMHS

1984: Steve Moore, ECHS

1985: Tony Hunt, WHS

1986: Greg Weiss, WHS

1987: Randy Smith, WHS

1988: Scott Weisenberger, CMHS

1989: Steve Monroe, ECHS

1990: Brad Bernard, WHS

1991: Mike Adams, WHS

1992: Greg Green, WHS

1992: Brad Bean, ECHS

1993: Josh Merz, CMHS

1994: Tom Williams, ECHS

1995: Tom Williams, ECHS

1996: Jason Adkins, WHS

1997: Aaron Clutter, CMHS

1998: Tim Guilfoyle, CMHS

1999: Ryan Goldie, BHS

2000: Cheyenne Duggins, BHS

2001: Todd Taylor, WHS

2002: Steve Olds, ECHS

2003: Dan Ivins, CMHS

2004: Lester Robinson, ECHS

2005: Zak Taylor, BHS

2005: Jeremiah Webb, WHS

2006: Austin Rankin, BHS

2007: Gregg Miller, CMHS

2008: Matt McFadden, ECHS

2009: Corby Running, CMHS

2010: Mike Stenger, CMHS

2011: Jared Salisbury, CMHS

2012: Trent Smart, CMHS

2013: AJ Avery, CMHS

2014: Michael Zitney, WHS

2015: Jake Garrison, CMHS

2016: Dylan Fawley, BHS

2017: Jacob Treisch, CMHS

2018: Matt Phillips, CMHS

2019: Davis Wulf, CMHS

2023: Chris Stewart, WHS

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or at twitter.com @wnjsports