April 15, 2014

UCF the 'perfect home' for Stewart

Cameron Stewart was recruited by a lot of schools, but he felt the most love from UCF.

Still abuzz from last week's unofficial visit, the three-star wide receiver from Snellville (Ga.) Shiloh ended his recruitment on Tuesday by becoming the Knights' first commitment for 2015.

Stewart always knew he was a target - the Knights did offer back in February - but a recent trip to the mailbox showed just how high of a priority he was.

"I got 100 letters from UCF on the same day," Stewart said. "That really sparked it for me because no other team did that. Seeing all those letters just struck me, I guess they do really want me."

So what did UCF put in those 100 letters?

"They were 100 reasons why I needed to go to UCF," Stewart said. "Every one of them was different. I had to open each one. One of the reasons was that I'd have the ability to start as a freshman. Another one said that when I make a catch for a first down, the announcer says your name, 'Cameron Stewart, that's good enough for another UCF first down. Go Knights!' They put that on the cards. Another cool one was about Universal Studios. UCF rents it out for an entire night so students can go."

Stewart first visited UCF back in November to attend the final home game against USF. He said that was a good opportunity to experience the game atmosphere, but he really needed to make a return trip so he could see the entire campus. He was able to make it back down last week.

"Last week when I went, it was just phenomenal," Stewart said. "I didn't know UCF was that nice. They showed me everything. We got on the golf cart and went everywhere. We saw the football condos, which were real nice. We got to see all the stuff they got for the bowl game. We saw their Broadway that has all the restaurants and all that. Academics, library, everything.

"And when we were in the golf cart traveling around, just going through the school, students actually acknowledged me. They actually knew my name. That was pretty cool."

While touring the facilities, Stewart met former UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, a player who could be the first overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. He also met the group of wide receivers, the son of his recruiter, defensive back Sean Beckton Jr., as well as a few of the linemen.

Georgia Tech, Indiana and Pittsburgh were among the early offers. In Stewart's eyes, UCF was the clear leader of the pack, so he decided to pull the trigger on a commitment.

"I talked with my mom all day about it," Stewart said. "She was asking, 'What do you like about UCF? What makes UCF so special?' I told her and she said, 'Go for it.' I direct messaged Coach Beckton this morning and said I've got some good news. I called him up after football practice and he said, 'What's the good news?' I told him I want to commit to you guys. He was like, 'Oh man, that just made my day!'"

Stewart said Beckton passed the phone over to head coach George O'Leary and they have a "good five-minute conversation." He's the player to jump on board for what should be a 25-man 2015 class.

"(O'Leary) talked about me starting things off," Stewart said. "After I committed, you could hear everybody in the background screaming, shouting and clapping. It was great."

A culmination of factors led to the decision.

"I wanted to commit because UCF was the perfect home for me," Stewart said. "That's my home state. I have family down there in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Miami and Pensacola, so every corner. They have my major, which right now I'm thinking about marine biology or psychology. I had a good relationship with the coaches. I have an opportunity to start as a freshman. Most schools you'd have to wait until sophomore year or after a redshirt. I took the opportunity and committed."

If there's a No. 1 priority for UCF in the 2015 class, it's wide receivers. The Knights will graduate four seniors (Rannell Hall, Josh Reese J.J. Worton and Jackie Williams) and a fifth, Breshad Perriman, could have the potential to be an NFL Draft early entry.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Stewart, who listed Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Victor Cruz among his favorite players, could play a valuable role from the moment he steps on campus.

"Coach Beckton told me he likes how I high point the ball and how I'm physical with the DBs," Stewart said. "He actually said I reminded him of Brandon Marshall his freshman year, just with his size and how skinny he was. I saw a picture of him and he does look similar to me."

Stewart said he would continue to have dialogue with other schools, but doesn't forsee changing his mind.

"It would be hard for me to decommit from UCF," he said. "I'm still open for other schools to come along and I still might visit colleges and go to some camps, but it would take a lot."

As the Knights' first commit, Stewart said he plans to become an ambassador for the class, encouraging others to take a closer look at the program. He first conversation will be with close friend Austin Smith, a linebacker at Buford who holds offers from UCF, Florida, LSU, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, South Carolina and others.

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