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October 11, 2004

Snoop the nationís top running back?

SEATTLE - First there was the original Snoop, but he was too cool to go by just Snoop and was known simply as Snoopy.

Then in the early 90s Snoop Doggy Dawg made a name for himself as one of the best rappers of all time.

Just outside of Seattle there is another Snoop emerging onto the national scene as one of the best running backs in America. His name is Jonathan Stewart and you better get used to his name because he has the staying power of both of his predecessors.

On Friday night, Stewart, a five-star running back from Lacey (Wash.) Timberline, impressed with 263 yards rushing and six touchdowns. On a night where everybody in the stands - all 3,000 plus of them - knew he was going to get the ball early and often, Stewart controlled the game with a bruising running style that reminds people of Maurice Clarrett.

"He's special," Timberline coach Kevin Young said. "The more I see him, the more in awe of him I am. He's so good right now, but the scary thing is that he can get even better. As he continues to grow and mature more, he's going to be incredible."

He already is.

The biggest knock on Stewart is his top-end speed. Even though he timed a 4.52-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Eugene NIKE Camp, and on Friday night nobody could catch Stewart. He busted off touchdown runs of 7, 40, 37, 5, 12 and 1 yard.

"For some reason, the coaches didn't think he was fast enough at first," Young said. "All I know is that he's fast enough that nobody catches him. Nebraska just offered him on Thursday, so they must think he's fast enough."

But what makes Stewart truly special is his ability to simply dominate defenders with his pure power while remaining as agile as any 180-pound receiver. Time after time, defenders bounced off his legs, he would use his free hand to push away linebackers with a killer stiff-arm, and he would leap over defensive backs when they would dive at his knees to tackle him.

Another thing that jumps out about Stewart is his humility.

In an era when many star football players - on the high school, college and pro ranks - have me-first attitudes, you'll have a hard time getting Stewart to even celebrate his touchdowns. You'd think on a night when you score six touchdowns he would be ecstatic and celebrate, but Stewart simply walked off the field after each score and got ready for the next time he got a chance to carry the football.

"I think that's probably the most amazing thing about him," Young said. "He's the most humble kid that I've ever been around. That's what sets him apart from the others. You'll never get him to say a thing about himself. He just goes out there and goes about his business."

Stewart himself agrees that the best way to go about his business on the field is business-like.

"You have to be focused and serious all the time," he said. "This is really important for everybody out here, and I owe my teammates my best effort to remain focused on our goals to win the game."

And oh yeah, he's also focused on becoming the nation's No. 1 running back prospect, and if he continues to produce like he has this season, it's going to be tough to keep him from powering his way to that spot, too.


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