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Chance Stewart, a quar­terback at Sturgis High, gets in a practice at the beginning of his 2014 senior season.

Former Hillsdale College quar­terback Chance Stewart ’19 has returned to his high school football field, but this time, he will be calling plays from the side­lines as the head coach. 

The Sturgis High School Football team wel­comed Stewart back in June. Since then, Stewart has been coaching the team throughout the summer and into the school year. 

Stewart, who grew up in Sturgis, said he is excited for the oppor­tunity to coach kids in his hometown and help them grow into com­petitors on the field and hon­orable men in the com­munity.  

“The biggest thing about coaching will be setting kids up for success in whatever area life leads them,” Stewart said. “Kids are so impres­sionable in high school, and I’m excited to be able to have that impact on them and steer them in the right direction.”

For Stewart, the com­munity of Sturgis and the high school football team have always been important parts of his life. His father and two brothers also played football for Sturgis, and Stewart said he looks forward to being back to improve the team’s culture. 

“The number of kids playing are starting to go back up, so I’m excited to see kids get moti­vated to come out and play football,” Stewart said. “Football is that one sport where you really have to put in the work all year, and the kids have really bought into that which is exciting.” 

Despite the Michigan High School Ath­letic Association’s decision to cancel the 2020 football season, Stewart’s team has still been prac­ticing. Stewart, however, said telling the seniors their fall season had been can­celed was one of the hardest things he’s had to do as a coach so far. 

“We get to go out there and practice, and it’s my goal to make sure it’s as enjoyable as pos­sible,” Stewart said. 

Even though his team is still able to get some work in through practice, Stewart said things feel dif­ferent because of certain COVID-19 restric­tions. 

“When the guys do any­thing good at practice, I can’t high five them or jump bump,” Stewart said. “COVID has changed the way a lot of things are done at practice.” 

Hillsdale College head football coach Keith Otterbein called Stewart a natural leader on and off the field. He said Stewart worked tire­lessly to improve his game and encourage his team members to do the same during his time as a Charger. 

“When he came in, a big part of why he ended up being such a phe­nomenal leader was his attitude when he got to campus,” Otterbein said. “He absorbed what the program was about. He studied the offense and just got in the mindset that he was going to wait his turn. When the oppor­tunity came, he was going to look back and say that he had done every­thing he could to take advantage of that oppor­tunity.” 

Stewart got that oppor­tunity midway through his freshman season and was a regular starter for the remainder of his time at Hillsdale. 

Hillsdale College football senior Martin Petersen said he grew up attending the same football camps as Stewart before playing alongside him as a tight end. Echoing Otterbein, Petersen said Stewart set the tone for the entire team. 

“It started with Chance being one of the most tal­ented guys on our team, but he came to work and get better every single day,” Petersen said. “He always brought effort to every­thing he did and wanted to get better every day, and that had a domino effect on the rest of the team. 

Stewart, who led the Chargers to a con­ference cham­pi­onship in 2018, said he hopes to carry this attitude into his coaching style and develop the work ethic of younger players. 

“Football is the perfect metaphor for life,” Stewart said. “It’s a beau­tiful game. Every detail matters on the football field just like in everyday life. Every sort of action has a reaction that goes with it.” 

Prior to leading the coaching staff of Sturgis’ High School football team, Stewart spent his time back home working in his family’s sporting goods store. Stewart said that he is now able to coach kids he has been seeing come into the shop his whole life. 

“Now I’m not the guy selling them their football jersey –– I’m the one coaching them,” Stewart said. 

Otterbein reflected on Stewart’s time at Hillsdale, adding that Stewart always went out of his way to help younger players at camps. 

“He’s got that grit, toughness, and com­pet­itive edge, which he demon­strated in every­thing that we had asso­ciated with our football program on the field,” Ottberbein said. “But then he was also the guy that would be the first in line coaching the kids at youth camp or helping out with Victory Day and having a ball with those kids.” 

Petersen said he antic­i­pates Stewart will embrace all of the dif­fi­culties that come with being a new head coach of a football team and excel in his position because of the love he has for the game. 

“The thing about Chance is he knows that he’s got to learn a lot, and he’s ready for that chal­lenge,” Petersen said. “He loves the game of football to the point where it’s second nature, and he’s always wanting to learn more. I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be an excellent coach at the high school level.” 

Otterbein said Stewart also under­stands that his role as a head coach is about more than teaching kids how to play football.  

“He’ll influence those kids and teach them the prepa­ration it takes to win, but he’ll also help them under­stand that even if you come up short but you’ve given it every­thing you’ve got, you don’t have regrets,” Otterbein said. “He’ll do a great job in teaching those life lessons, and he’s going to be a great role model for making the right choices in the com­munity.”