Grad. transfer QB Stuart appreciative of protection O-line provides

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | NEC Offensive Player of the Week, graduate transfer quarterback Tommy Stuart.
Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | NEC Offensive Player of the Week, graduate transfer quarterback Tommy Stuart.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

In a world that has come to glorify loud, self-promoting individuals, humility is becoming increasingly more infrequent within several arenas, one being organized sports.

However, in rare, refreshing cases, the recipient goes out of their way to praise those around them who have been instrumental to their success, opting to deflect much of their newfound individual praise upon other people, a la Duquesne graduate transfer quarterback, Tommy Stuart, who, upon being named the Northeast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday following a four touchdown effort in a 28-23 win at Dayton on Sept. 16, was adamant that the offensive line in front of him deserves much of the credit that he is receiving.

“To me, it’s really a team award, because without the O-line, running backs, tight ends, receivers, and even the scout team guys, it wouldn’t be possible,” Stuart said regarding the accolade.

“[Senior offensive lineman] Ben Huss, [junior OL] Matt Fitzpatrick, [junior OL] Alex Conley, [senior OL] Cody Collins, [junior OL] Nick Jordan and [sophomore OL] Gabe Spurlock have really been paving the way all year for the offense.”

Stuart used the protection that he received from his O-line to complete 19 of his 31 passes on Saturday for 253 yards and two touchdowns, along with 51 rushing yards and two running scores. The win improved the Dukes’ record to 2-1 this season.

If any athlete on Duquesne’s campus should be self-serving right now, it is, ironically, Stuart: Exercising his last year of eligibility, the Baltimore, Maryland, native began his career in 2013 at Aaron Rodgers’ alma mater, Butte Junior College in Oroville, California, and then transferred to Mountain West powerhouse Boise State, where he played sparingly over the course of two seasons.

After redshirting during the 2014 campaign, Stuart appeared in nine games as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. Despite accounting for four touchdowns (one passing, three rushing) in limited playing time, Stuart saw game action during only three games as a redshirt junior in 2016, seemingly due to top Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien’s sustained health.

“It was a great experience. I got to play a little bit — I didn’t play as much as I liked, or I’d probably still be there — but I think it helped me a lot,” Stuart said of his time at Boise State.

“I have the experience in front of the fans (Editor’s Note: BSU’s 2015 average home football attendance is roughly 15 times larger than the seating capacity at Rooney Field) and stuff like that. When adversity hits in the game, [I understand] what to do, and since I’m an older guy, [I’m kind of] helping out some of the younger guys with that.”

While admittedly in a much smaller environment now than he grew accustomed to at public Boise State, Stuart seems to have enjoyed life on the Bluff so far.

“You know, it is a small campus, but it has a big school feel… With the South Side, [there are] a lot of Duquesne [students] and stuff like that, so [Duquesne’s presence] kind of [encompasses a much larger] area than just up here on the Bluff.”

Now a few weeks into the last season of his collegiate career, Stuart is focused on capitalizing on the opportunity to lead a Dukes team that has a chance to win another championship in the NEC this year.

“We definitely have high aspirations. We’d [love] to win the conference, and then win a playoff game, as well — Just get into the playoffs and see how far we can go. You know, that’s kind of the goal every year for this team,” Stuart stated.

This week, Duquesne has a bye as they begin to prepare for the conference portion of their schedule.

“I think the bye will be great to get everybody rejuvenated and healthy, and it also gives some younger guys a chance to show what they can do [in practice],” Stuart said of having this week off.

“It’s nice, especially since we had a longer fall camp, for everyone to just get a few days away from football, and come back ready to get to work and focus on our first home game, and then conference play after that.”

Duquesne will play again on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. vs. the D-II West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats at Rooney Field. The game will be the Dukes’ 2017 home opener.

The Bobcats are 2-1 thus far with a loss in their most recent outing as they fell at Fairmont State on Sept. 14, 35-10.

Following the Dukes’ game against West Virginia Wesleyan, Duquesne will begin conference play on October 7 at 1 p.m. when it hosts NEC rival Wagner.