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ATQ's "20 in 20" - No. 5 - Jonathan Stewart

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ATQ's 20 best players of the last 20 years continues with Jonathan Stewart, the running back who was as punishing as he was fast and was one of the most impressive running backs to ever play at Oregon.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Stewart entered Oregon with much fanfare and left as one of the greatest running backs ever at the school.

Coming out of high school he was the leading rusher in Washington football history with 7,755 yards and 105 touchdowns (105!).  He was basically all-everything in high school and ESPN had him rated as the second best player in the country out of high school making him the highest rated player to attend Oregon.

Stewart's freshman season saw him reach the end zone nine times in 72 touches.  His sophomore year Stewart was the team's leading rusher and finished with 981 yards rushing despite missing time because of ankle injuries.  Everyone knew Stewart's potential, but he was battling ankle injuries and was given a  lot of breaks with Jeremiah Johnson also being at the University of Oregon to lighten the load.

Jonathan Stewart really broke out his junior year.  On a national stage at the Big House taking on a wounded Michigan squad fresh off a loss to Appalachian State, Stewart ran for 111 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.  It wasn't just the yardage, but the way Stewart got the yards.  He was demoralizing and borderline emasculating towards a Michigan team that was fighting for any respect.   The following week against Fresno State, Stewart set the Autzen-record longest rushing play when he hit the hole in the offensive line and pulled away from every defender on the way to an 88-yard touchdown run.

When Jeremiah Johnson went down for a few weeks due to injury Jonathan Stewart really reached his full potential as the dominating workhorse running back.  Against Washington, Stewart carried the ball 32 times for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns in one of the more impressive rushing games by an Oregon Duck.

In the game against Oregon State where it seemed like Jonathan Stewart was the only player from the two-deep at the beginning of the year to still be playing and not decimated by injuries, he carried the rock 39 times for 163 yards.  Given the circumstances it was pretty amazing.  Oregon State knew how dependent Oregon was on the superstar and still allowed over 4 yards per carry.

Oregon played against South Florida in the Sun Bowl and once the team got their legs back under them Stewart shined one last time in college to the tune of 253 rushing yards.  While I joke that Ropert was the star with his 4 touchdown passes Stewart was really the best player on the field that day.

Stewart's final year was Chip Kelly's first year as offensive coordinator.  His size made it seem like he wouldn't be a great fit for the spread but he was the rare athlete with speed for the spread and the size to be punishing.  Being in high school when he played it always stood out to me how someone so BIG could move so fast and so quickly.  Stewart's stiff-arms were textbook and his ability to run over people was only surpassed by has ability to run past people.

Stewart left Oregon as an All-American and was First-Team All-PAC-10.  He was drafted 13th overall by the Carolina Panthers where he joined DeAngelo Williams in the backfield to make one of the scariest two-headed monsters in the NFL.  Through 6 years in the NFL he has 4,016 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns on the ground with another 903 yards receiving and 4 touchdown receptions.