WACO - Branndon Stewart must love the city of Waco.
In 1993, with his illustrious high school football career winding down, the Stephenville quarterback tossed a 50-yard touchdown strike, then hit Jason Bragg in the back of the endzone for a 2-point conversion to knock off defending Class 4A champion Waxahachie, 22-21, at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium. One week later, Stewart and the Yellow Jackets won the school’s first state title in a 26-13 defeat of La Marque.
The All-State and All-American quarterback returned to Waco Saturday to take his place in fame - the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
Stewart and former Stephenville coach Art Briles were among the eight members of the Class of 2008 inducted in a banquet at the Ferrell Center. Other members of the class included Conrad “Connie” Magourik of 1940s London High School in New London, Johnny Treadwell of 1950s Stephen F. Austin High School, Joe Wylie of 1960s Henderson, Johnny “Lam” Jones of 1970s Lampasas, Nati Valdez of 1980s Mission and special contributer Robert Cessna, longtime sports writer for The Eagle in Bryan-College Station.
Briles must love Waco, too, seeing how he now calls Floyd Casey Stadium home.
After winning three more state titles in Stephenville - 1994, ‘98 and ‘99 - and leading the University of Houston to four bowl games in five seasons, Briles was named the new head coach at Baylor in November.
“This is truly a great honor, and being at Baylor makes it even more special. Having the Hall of Fame here means I get to share it with a lot of people who I know find this very special.”
Stewart believes the induction of both he and Briles signifies recognition of the entire 1993 Yellow Jacket team.
“I feel like we are here as representatives of a great team more than for anything we did individually,” Stewart said. “They should really put our whole team in the Hall of Fame.”
Stewart remained humble throughout the proceedings, even wondering aloud at times what he was doing surrounded by football legends.
“I think I was a courtesy invite,” he said during his induction speech. “Coach Briles needed someone with him to represent the team.”
The numbers don’t lie, however, and they suggest Stewart is certainly deserving.
After passing for 1,750 yards and 12 touchdowns while leading the Jackets to the quarterfinals with a 10-4 mark in 1992, Stewart had a hand in 4,704 total yards and 47 touchdowns during the state title run in ‘93.
The first championship completed Briles’ fifth season in Stephenville.
“Branndon and those guys were the first group to go all the way through our program from seventh grade on up,” Briles said. “That was a special bunch. They understood that it was all about playing for the name on the front of the jersey, and that’s what got us to the top.”
Briles spent 12 seasons at Stephenville, accumulating a record of 136-28-2. In addition to Stewart, state champion quarterbacks Kelan Luker - 1998 - and Briles’ son Kendall - 1999 - were also on hand. Also present were some of Stewart’s teammates from the first title team, and some of Briles’ assistants, including Mike Copeland, his defensive coordinator who succeeded him as head coach.
“It’s all about people,” Briles said. “I’ve been surrounded by great people who have helped shape my life. To share this with Branndon and to have some of those people here with us is truly a special blessing.”