MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- On the first defensive snap from scrimmage Thursday night, Shemar Stewart drew a penalty.
The Miami Gardena (Fla.) Monsignor Pace defensive end's edge rushing presence caused a false start on crosstown rival Carol City High. One Pace assistant yelled what many were thinking.
"He's scared! Now we know!"
Stewart is 6'5", 260 pounds and a top 10 college football recruit in America. The Chiefs left tackle isn't nearly as big or known, and he wouldn't be alone in picking up a flag in trying to slow Florida's top talent. Stewart would draw several penalties on the night, including a handful of holding calls as the night wore on.
The senior would help Pace dominate on defense through three-plus quarters, registering a sack, two tackles for loss and countless pressures on quarterback Dominiq Ponder, who would lead Carol City back late in the game to force overtime. Pace would win after forcing a turnover in the extra frame, though the margin between a touchdown and the interception that was called (video here) continues to draw conversation in south Florida.
After the win, Stewart led a big, loud celebration in the Pace locker room. He had to catch his breath thereafter, not only because of the amount of snaps he played in the 21-14 win, but because it was the first overtime game he has ever been a part of.
"It was the craziest game, for sure," he said. "It feels great, we can't complain. I wish we could have beat them 14-0 like the score was for most of the game."
Stewart is refined in 2021. He's added good weight and even works inside as an interior rusher at times, including on a gaudy tackle for loss where he split a double team in the third quarter Thursday.
"I'm more developed, more experienced," he said. "I know what I have to do. Not a dumb freshman no more (laughing)."
The foundational pass-rushing skill and the added versatility continues to command attention on the recruiting trail for the nation's No. 2 edge prospect. There are five programs above the pack to date, including Clemson, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State and Texas A&M. A sixth, Oregon, remains in the conversation as well, pitching Stewart as a potential replacement for Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Official visits to Texas A&M and Ohio State are next in Stewart's evaluation process. The trips are critical towards an eventual decision, though one isn't expected in the near future.
The Aggie angle is one elevated following the program's upset of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
"How do you not commit after you beat the number one team?" he said with a laugh.
Admitting he thought about making the call to Jimbo Fisher shortly after the big win, there is clear momentum with the SEC West program and one of its top targets. It will be Stewart's second trip to College Station and South Carolina will be in town.
"Last time I was there, I didn't go for a game," he said. "This time I want to get up close and personal, see how they coach and things like that. It's great over there, it's family. They always hit me up like I'm family."
Stewart visited Columbus this summer to check out the campus and work out at the Buckeye prospect camp. There, he spent considerable time with defensive line coach Larry Johnson. He will return for the potential top 10 matchup between Ohio State and Penn State.
"He's a legend," he said of Johnson. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be coached by a legend. I didn't get up there for a game so I want to see how the atmosphere is and how the coaches handle things."
Georgia is likely to get the next official visit, he says, though a date has yet to be determined. The current No. 1 program on the field has a pitch similar to Oregon's following expected departures along the defensive front.
A fifth and final official visit is still to be determined. It could go to Oregon, Clemson, Miami or somewhere else. Communication with the Tiger staff hasn't been as consistent as others while Miami's hometown pitch remains prevalent amid rumors of change in Coral Gables after The U's 2-3 start.
Stewart, who says he is focusing on culture and development in search for a school, has a timeline that will allow all coaching carousel dust to settle before he locks himself into one program.
"That's why I'm signing in February," he said.