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Local coach lands dream opportunity at the next level

Corey Stewart is the new assistant defensive backs’ coach for the Rams.

Local coach lands dream opportunity at the next level
July 21
14:53 2021

Corey Stewart played safety for the Winston-Salem State University Rams (WSSU) from 2004-08. For the past decade, he has been coaching on the high school level, but next season he will be the new assistant defensive backs’ coach for his alma mater.

Stewart was initially approached with the position back in early 2020 by a suggestion from former teammate and current WSSU defensive coordinator Marvin Bohannon Jr. Due to the pandemic, things had to be put on hold for a year.

“He (Bohannon) called me up and he just thought that I would be a good fit for coming over there and at first I thought I was just coming over to help out with film, but after sitting down with him and head coach Robert Massey, Coach Massey felt like I would be a good candidate to help out with the defensive backs,” Stewart said.  

“It was about a month before the shutdown happened and so they said they wanted to get me out there for the spring and get me around the guys and see how I did. I was cool with that, but then COVID happened and so they said they were not going to have spring ball and that kind of put me kind of in limbo, because colleges and high schools were still trying to figure out what they were going to do. 

“I eventually ended up having to make a decision because North (Forsyth) needed my answer so they could fill their staff, so I just felt like it was the right time to make that move, because I had been dreaming about it for so long and what better place to go than your alma mater.”

Coaching wasn’t initially on the radar for Stewart as he wanted to become a sports broadcaster in college. He has a degree in mass communications, but after graduation he started his first two years in coaching as a graduate assistant at WSSU.

Stewart says former WSSU defensive coordinator Mike Ketchum was a great mentor for him at the beginning of his coaching career that made him realize that coaching was something Stewart might want to look into long term.

“I had a great defensive mentor in coach Mike Ketchum, who was my defensive coordinator when I was playing there at Winston-Salem State,” said Stewart. “He helped me to be able to not only understand defense from my position, but understand defense from every position on the field. So, he was really instrumental in kind of getting me started into coaching.

“Once the head coach at the time, Coach (Kermit) Blount, decided to go elsewhere, of course there was a turnover in the staff. At that time I was in flux about what I wanted to do.”

Stewart began substitute teaching, which was his introduction into the school system. He was bitten by the coaching bug and wanted another opportunity. Stewart actually cold-called every college on the East Coast to inquire about a coaching vacancy that he could fill.

There was an opportunity that opened up for Stewart early in his career with a college in Missouri.  He chose to turn that down due to him signing his lease for his apartment earlier that month.  Stewart also had an offer from Greensboro College, but the pay was not enough for him live off of, so he decided to turn that offer down as well.

Stewart says he reached out to a former coach DeAngelo Bell and he was instrumental in getting Stewart back into coaching.  That conversation took place at the right time, because Stewart was actually thinking about moving on from coaching at that point in time.

“He (Bell) was able to get me over to Parkland High School and I was a part of that coaching staff and it kind of built from there,” he said.  “I was there for three or four years and eventually became the JV defensive coordinator and even the JV head coach at one point.  

“That kind of really got me started as far as coaching and having that responsibility of getting my own group, which I didn’t have in college.”

After a few years, Stewart began to get into a groove and began to take to coaching.  He says there were things he learned every year that made him a more effective coach for the kids.  While coaching at North Forsyth, Stewart says he hit his “sweet spot” as far as understanding the game.

“I think every year is different and every year you learn something new,” he said about coaching.  “I’ve always been confident that I understood football. That came from my days of just playing it.  In college, a lot of my teammates would actually come to me on Thursday and ask what I saw on the film, so I guess people always recognized that I understood the game.  

Stewart credits current Carver head football coach Wayne Griffin for expanding his knowledge on how offenses try to counter defenses and expose their weaknesses. “Out of my 12 years coaching, I was with Wayne Griffin for eight of those years,” said Stewart.  “I was with him at Parkland and he really showed me how to design a defense and how to adjust to offenses during the game.  I have been around a lot of good coaches that have helped me along in this process.”

Being a former player allows Stewart to better understand his players, he said.  He said a coach doesn’t have to be a former player in order to teach, but as a former player he can relate to what his athletes are going through on and off the field.

“I think I can understand what they’re thinking about a little bit better than if I hadn’t played,” he said.  “I think that if you haven’t played, you can still understand technique, that’s just a learned thing.  When you’re a former player, you can relate a little bit better with the kids and the experiences they are having and not just on the football field.”

Stewart spent the bulk of his high school coaching career at North Forsyth.  Not only was he an assistant on the football team, he eventually became a wrestling coach and the head tennis coach.  He says he is really appreciative to North Forsyth and athletic director Sean Vestal.  

“I was busy every season of a high school season,” he said.  “They treated me really well over there and Sean Vestal and I have a great relationship.”

Stewart says that Vestal was instrumental in him getting paid as a coach, because his first year he worked voluntarily to gain more experience.  Stewart says he wasn’t paid for one year at Parkland, along with one year at Glenn, however, the experience he obtained during that time was invaluable.

“There were three or four years in my coaching career that I wasn’t paid for the whole season,” he said.  “And I tell young coaches that are trying to get into this that if you’re just looking for a paycheck, it might not be there, so you really have to love the game, love what you do and love teaching kids, because there might be times where you might have to sacrifice and part of that sacrifice might be your money.

“For me, I never looked at it as me not getting paid.  I looked at it as a thing of getting experience.”

Even though he is now living out one of his dreams, Stewart says he will miss the players and staff at North, because he has built so many great friendships there.  He says he still stays in contact with several players, former players and staff.

Stewart confided in his close family and friends once the position at WSSU opened back up to him.  “I talked to my brother, I talked to my wife, I talked to coach Griffin, because I always respect his opinion in professional matters, I talked to Sean Vestal and a few others,” said Stewart about who he spoke with about the new position.  

Stewart says he mulled over his decision for months before actually deciding to take the position at WSSU.  He says many people think it was a no-brainer for him to move up to the next level, but he is big on loyalty, which is why is stayed at certain places for as long as he did.

Now that he is at the next level, the goal for Stewart is to simply come in and build relationships with the players.  He feels with the knowledge he has obtained over the last 12 years will allow everything else to fall into place.

“You can have all the ability and skill in the world to teach something, but if you don’t have that relationship, the kids aren’t going to follow you,” said Stewart.  

Stewart had the chance to be around the players for a while during the spring and feels confident that the team can compete in the CIAA and even nationally if everything falls into place.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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