Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/10/13
CINCINNATI Walter Stewart knows he has a decision to make. The former University of Cincinnati defensive end believes he can still play football. He needs a team to believe that he can. Since suffering a sprained neck last early last season, an injury which led to the discovery that he had been born without the posterior arch of his C1 vertebra, Stewart has been seeking a chance. Doctors initially told him he would never play football again but he found one in Dr. James Elder, a neurosurgeon at Ohio State University, who gave him the clearance to begin working out again for the purpose of returning to the field. While teams around the NFL, including the Bengals, are hosting rookie mini-camps and conducting offseason workout programs, Stewart is still searching for someone to believe in him. Stewart went unselected in last months NFL Draft. Hes so far gone unsigned as a free agent and hes not in anyones camp for a tryout. He is well aware of the risks but believes thats mostly from the unknown. I was a little surprised because I expected to get a shot. It didnt work out that way so Im still in limbo, trying to see what is going on and wait and see what happens, said Stewart in a conversation with Fox Sports Ohio this week. My attitude is still the same. A lot of stuff is out of my control. When it comes to medical stuff, its hard because I feel like a majority of the time Im pleading my health as opposed to showing my health. The Columbus native was considered a top draft prospect at the beginning of last season, possibly even a first-round candidate depending on how his senior season went. Stewart was credited with 149.5 tackles in his UC career, including 114 solo stops. He had 17.5 sacks, 34.5 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 10 passes defensed and one interception. Despite the injury, he got an invite to the NFL scouting combine in February. He was ready to work out there before his medical exam came back and doctors red-flagged him. He participated in UCs pro day in March, signing a waiver before being allowed to do so, and showed well by unofficially running 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.40 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and 7.22 seconds in the 3-cone drill. He had a broad jump of 10 feet, 3 inches, a vertical leap of 37. 5 inches and had 16 reps on the 225-pound bench press. None of that was enough to get teams to overlook his congenital medical condition. When I first got hurt I was under the impression that I could slip on ice and severely injure myself, said Stewart. That was the major concern until we got more into it and got more information about it and realized its a congenital thing. A lot of people are born without a lot of stuff and theyre just fine. Ive been playing football my whole life and Ive never had any issue. Had I not sprained my neck I probably would have never known and nobody would have known and I would have been playing football and doing what Ive been doing. Its a situation where now that we know its a congenital issue, how do we assess the risks? Its such a rare defect that nobody knows. Thats the main issue. Stewart worked out for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL last weekend and said he got some good feedback from the coaches and scouts who were there. Teams in the CFL will have to make the same risk assessment on Stewart that teams in the NFL have been through. Michael Munoz was thought to be a high-round draft prospect in 2005. Munoz, the son of Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz, had been a star at Moeller High School and at the University of Tennessee. He also had bad knees. A knee injury forced him to miss the entire 2001 season but he came back and finished out his career with accolades. Munoz went undrafted. He and his family were stunned. None of his fathers friends or contacts around the league bothered to call him and give them a heads up that Michaels knees were red flags for teams. Unlike Stewart, Munoz did get some offers to sign as a free agent. He declined. Now eight years later, Michael Munoz is the father of three and is working with his dad at their own public relationssports marketing firm, The Munoz Agency. There were a lot of people around me that I went to for advice and at the end of the day you have to realize that while you love sports, you love athletics Im still around it today and I love being around it but theres a lot of life to live, said Munoz. Every time it gets to be about summer and group workouts would be starting, that decision comes back, but for Walter hes got to decide what are the doctors telling him? What are the people around him telling him? Those that he respects their opinion. Is this something that he wants to take a chance on? Its tough. Stewart was making plans for graduate school and getting into coaching when he and his family found second opinions that said he didnt have to give up playing. His family supports his decision. Grad school and coaching is an option, but he wants to fully exhaust the possibility of playing before he goes down that path. If I knew that I was endangering myself, I wouldnt do it, said Stewart. Im only 22 years old and I wouldnt take that chance but I really believe that Im fine. I dont have any pain. Ive never had any pain that was associated with that type of injury. It was just one of those situations.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Jose Altuve leaves game after scary outfield collision

Allen Iverson has savage response to Tim Hardaway’s crossover claim

Fred Hoiberg: Rajon Rondo ‘longshot’ to return during Celtics series

Pat Riley: LeBron James’ departure from Miami ‘was personal’

Marcus Smart fires back at Jimmy Butler over ‘not about that life’ talk

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tony Gonzalez: Tony Romo did not cost me CBS job

Martavis Bryant conditionally reinstated by NFL

Dustin Pedroia: No rift in Red Sox clubhouse after Manny Machado incident

USGA tries to simplify rules by ending viewer call-ins, somehow makes it more complicated

NFL GM: Peterson could push Saints ‘into the playoffs and beyond’

Report: Derek Jeter/Jeb Bush-led group wins auction for Miami Marlins

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

NFL Draft X-factor players you may have missed during their college careers

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Box Score 4/25: 'So long, sleeves'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

20 of the best NFL Draft red carpet looks

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

NFL Draft X-factor players you may have missed during their college careers

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker