Gibraltar Carlson wide receiver Ian Stewart committed to Michigan State last week over a lengthy list of major offers. However, him wearing green and white in college would have been difficult to predict in the early part of his life.
“To be honest, when I was very little, I liked Michigan State especially their basketball team with Kalin Lucas,” he said. “Around like 10 (years old) until when I started getting recruited, I always rooted for Michigan.”
The Wolverines did offer, but there were actually other schools who seemed to have his attention as much or more than either in-state school for a time — Purdue, Kentucky and West Virginia to name a few. The more Stewart went out and saw other places, though, the more he made comparisons and the more the Spartans stood out to him.
“Honestly I knew (I wanted to commit to Michigan State) after I came off the spring break bus tour with Rising Stars,” Stewart said. “I got offers from a few schools and saw some schools I had interest in, and even still, no program compared to Michigan State and (head coach) Mark Dantonio.”
Another part of the process with Michigan State was for Stewart to build a relationship with wide receivers coach Don Treadwell. Stewart attended the Spartan Elite camp in June 2018, earning his offer that day, but it was Terrence Samuel he worked with at camp. With Samuel now coaching defensive backs, he needed to get to know Treadwell and, from the start, they clicked.
“Our relationship took off fast,” Stewart said. “From the moment he was named wide receivers coach, he made it known to me I was their 1A recruit at receiver. He’s a good person, and I know he’s going to develop me.”
Develop is what Stewart had to do in high school. He entered his high school years already with buzz from his middle school accomplishments, a handful of camps he attended prior to arriving at Carlson, and already having the size to project out as a college prospect.
His freshman season, he got his toes in the water on the varsity squad. In the offseason, Jack Giarmo took over as Carlson head coach, had an opportunity to see some film on Stewart and then went to a Marauders basketball game.
“I had watched him play basketball his freshman year on varsity, and he had great feet and vision on the court,” Giarmo said. “Football is his game, but I watched him move and thought, ‘Gosh, this kid’s a player.’ Sophomore year, we got into two-a-days and in all my years, he is the No. 1 hardest-working player I have ever had — on the field, off the field, from games to workouts. It’s nice to see nowadays.”
Stewart received a handful of early offers. He attended college camps. He became known for using his size (now 6-foot-3, 200 pounds) to go up and out-body defenders for the football. Many high school receivers, especially ones with high-major college aspirations might not accept it well when their team switches to a run-heavy offense, but that highlights another of Stewart’s qualities.
“The offense we run is a Wing-T offense, so when we have a kid like Ian — we don’t split guys out,” Giarmo said. “And he is so unselfish. I never hear him complain. We rarely ever split guys out. So he played quarterback this past year and pushed the edge and did a great job on fakes and things, and never complained. We put him at running back to get him more touches, threw it to him when we could, and then on defense, you see him flying around making big plays. He just has a great attitude.”
That brings it all back to the relationship Stewart has with Treadwell and, in looking at the receivers Treadwell has coached, his confidence that some of the rougher edges he has from not playing wide receiver full time in high school will quickly be ironed out.
Once he can focus on the position, Giarmo believes the sky is the limit.
“He could be the best,” Giarmo said. “He can jump, run, and is so athletic. He does basketball and then runs track, but is dealing with an injury right now, but our baseball team still has him on the roster just in case he comes out. His future is bright. He has so much more room to grow.”
As for all that rooting for Michigan, that will not be part of his future.
“I, of course, bleed green now,” Stewart said.
Michigan State now has four commitments in the class of 2020. Stewart is the third from inside the state.
MSU extends new QB offers
Michigan State expanded their offer board at quarterback in the 2020 class this week, extending offers to Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) signal caller C.J. Stroud and Gilbert (Ariz.) Perry’s Chubba Purdy.
Quarterbacks coach Dave Warner had an opportunity to see both players throw as part of the spring evaluation period.
Prior to the offer being extended, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Stroud listed Michigan State as a program he would be interested in visiting. California, Kansas State and Utah are some of the schools the Spartans are competing with for him.
Purdy, a four-star quarterback with 17 offers, has not yet set a visit to East Lansing either, but made it known he was excited about the opportunity.
Stroud and Purdy now join previously offered Michael Alaimo as quarterback targets for Michigan State in this class.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.