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December 30, 2010

The long arm(s) of the law

EL PASO, Texas - All Chris Stewart would like to do - for once - is sleep in, take a nap, anything that's different from the schedule he followed this fall while taking on the dual role of football player/law school student.

"I will always remember that my schedule was horrible and I hated it," beamed the 6-foot-5, 350-pound left guard who will be making his 35th career start and 27th in a row when the Irish take on Miami in the 77th annual Sun Bowl Friday.

"But other than that, I gained a bunch of good insight. It's definitely a field I want to go into. It validated my first semester. It's something that I would never, ever do again. But I got my feet wet in it, and now I just want to go forward in football."

What Stewart would never, ever do again is juggle football while attending law school. His aspirations to play in the NFL, and then pursue a career as a trial lawyer, remain intact. As for the combination of major college football player and law student, wow, that was a bit much.

"Basically I was up at seven every day and got to bed around one," Stewart said. "I knew it was going to be that bad. I had some classes in the spring, and that was only eight credits and this was 12. I'm just glad it's over."

Worst class? "Contracts."

Toughest class? "Crim Law was harder, but I enjoyed it. It was a different take on things."

Greatest lesson? "I would say in Crim Law we learned how to approach it when people come in with a story and they're looking for representation. It's kind of funny. I can't exactly tell you the secret, but it was interesting to learn how to do that."

Pushed further, he reveals the secret. "Basically, it's get your money," Stewart laughed. "That's what it was. That was interesting and very applicable, too."

For the Spring, Texas product - approximately a 13-hour drive from home to El Paso - Friday's game against Miami will be the icing on the cake of a truly memorable experience, both as a Notre Dame football player with a College of Arts and Letters degree (3.536 cumulative grade-point average) and an aspiring NFL performer with big plans after his athletic career comes to a close.

There was the brief fling at a nose tackle as a sophomore in 2007, and the return home when he considered leaving Notre Dame permanently. There was the decision to return, and his eventual placement into the starting lineup, which he hasn't relinquished despite injury (ankle) and competition (talented sophomore Chris Watt) over the last 27 games.

Friday's final game in a Notre Dame uniform gives Stewart the feeling of coming full circle, of facing the ultimate challenges and coming out on top.

"I've made it now to my final bowl game," Stewart said. "To basically have a full year of law school done, that's gratifying. The only thing that can make it better is a win. Let's end this on a good note."

It already has.







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