Matt Stewart is an award-winning reporter for WDAF Fox 4 in Kansas City, MO. His first experience as a published writer occurred as a seven-year-old, when he wrote a neighborhood newspaper on his electric typewriter and sold it to the neighbors for $.25. After twice being selected to the Young Author’s Conference, Matt realized he’d found his calling. But he didn’t publish his first novel until he turned 37 years old. Told to write about what you know, Matt detailed his experiences as a walk-on football player at Northwestern University and the public greeted his debut novel with positive reviews. His book even won the Gold Prize in the Reader’s Favorite contest, and it is inspiring athletes and non-athletes, young and old, even today.
In the summer of 1993, Matt decided to walk-on to the Northwestern University football team. Even though he arrived in Evanston as an unheralded safety, he knew Northwestern had been terrible for decades. He hoped to one day play Big Ten football against teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Matt began his career as a fifth-string free safety, but with hard work, endurance, and some luck, he moved up to second-string the spring of his freshman year. After his sophomore campaign, Coach Gary Barnett offered Matt a full-ride scholarship. At the same time, Northwestern began to transform the losing culture at the school. Armed with confidence and expectations of victory, the Wildcats stunned the nation by upsetting Notre Dame to open the 1995 season (see book excerpt).
The team went undefeated in the Big Ten and was invited to Pasadena to play USC in the Rose Bowl. What a year! Everyone across the nation talked about Northwestern’s Cinderella season, trying to figure out how a group of no-names from an academic institution could beat all the big-dogs of college football.
Matt’s senior year, Northwestern returned the bulk of their playmakers and made another run at a Big Ten championship. Personally, Matt struggled with a lack of playing time and the coaches lack of confidence in his ability. In the second-to-last game of the season against Iowa, Northwestern blew out the Hawkeyes and in the fourth quarter, the coaches put in the entire second-team defense – everyone but Matt. It was the lowest point of his life. But Matt had one more regular season game left to prove his worth.
Leading Purdue 27-24 with :04 left in the game, the Boilermakers had one last chance to win the game. Northwestern’s Victory defense went on the field and Matt lined up against the slot receiver. Purdue’s quarterback threw up a “Hail Mary” and Matt reached up and grabbed it out of the air. He went from not playing one week to making a last-second interception the next to secure Northwestern’s second consecutive Big Ten title. (see the video here)
Matt graduated in June 1997 and went into the broadcast news industry. Since then, he has anchored and reported in Omaha, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Kearney, Nebraska; Dayton, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri. He married Chrissy in April 2002 and they have three beautiful children: Jackson, Alex and Madeline.
The lessons learned on the football field have helped Matt succeed off it. He’s learned that no matter what your goals – even if they seem impossible – can be achieved if you put your mind to it, work hard, stay focused and pursue it with relentless determination. Matt hopes you enjoy the life lessons shared in his book. God bless!