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Changing bodies changes Bearcats' dynamics

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The dramatic overhaul of the bodies of Walter Stewart and Andre Cureton are among many reasons UC sees itself heading in the right direction.

WEST HARRISON, Ind. --  Walter Stewart has three younger siblings. Two of them are 6 years old. The other is 8.

When he goes home for the summer, the questions from the kids about how he's been and what it's like to be the cool college football player in the family quickly give way to another question:

Why are you eating all our food?

"I am eating all their chicken nuggets, I am eating all the corn dogs, I am eating all their little snacks and stuff," Stewart said. "My parents try to get me fast food to keep me out the fridge."

Stewart tries to show restraint. Admittedly, he doesn't want to eat his younger brother and sister's food. He tries to pace himself.

"But if it's in (the fridge)," he said, "I'm eating it."

In his eyes, he doesn't have much of a choice. He knew to become the type of player he needs to be and to fit into the Bearcats' system, he needed to grow. Horizontally.

When in the process of changing from a 216-pound outside linebacker at the conclusion of his freshman year to a 250-pound defensive end with the same burst and speed as a junior, eating everything in sight isn't just a diet. It's a lifestyle change.

"I got to have five square meals every day," he said. "I never miss."

Most people would cringe at pouring on 35 pounds. Only, instead of looking like a contestant for the The Biggest Loser, Stewart looks primed for the Big East season.

Stewart added "lean muscle mass," according to strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson and now fits the mold of the every day defensive end position he'll transition to this year. For those who worry Stewart lost the quickness which allowed him to notch 59 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a freshman should fear not.

By all accounts, Stewart moves with as much burst and agility as ever. He can still slip past a blocker, only now, he has the option to run them over, as well.

"Putting on the weight for me was more about being physical," Stewart said. "My goal this camp and whole offseason was making the transition from linebacker to d-line is you got to be able to play the run. That's the one thing I really try to focus on when I am out here. I still work on my pass rush and stuff, but mentally, I am like, all right, you have to be physical and play the run."

Stewart may blow by offensive lineman on the practice field, but he's being passed by OL Andre Cureton in the buffet line.

It was only 18 months ago, Cureton saw a picture of himself and couldn't believe his eyes. A three-sport athlete from Indianapolis Pike High School who weighed 290 pounds for his senior year, ballooned to 364.

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"The coaches would make fun of me and say I gained the freshman 30 instead of the freshman 15," Cureton said. "To be honest, I didn't even know I was 360. I used to walk around Turner Hall, my freshman dorm, with my shirt off and everything. Then it hit me we have the Sugar Bowl pictures and I have the white jersey on and I was huge. I was like, it's got to stop. I got to get back to the way I was looking."

That meant a lifestyle change similar to Stewart's, only in reverse. Portion sizes were cut down. A steady diet of fruits and vegetables were infused. And ice cream? Forget about it.

For camp this year, Cureton reported at 295. Under 300 for the first time in three years.

The loss of weight hasn't equaled a loss of power thanks to Lawson's program. Cureton's squat, bench and power lifting numbers are all up.

"He's more athletic than he has ever been," Lawson said.

Lawson set the blueprint that has Cureton competing for a starting position. He's working with the second group but pushing Austin Bujnoch to start at guard. His confidence level ran inversely proportional to his weight.

"When I was 360, I thought I could play it but after four or five plays I would be dead," Cureton said. "Out here now, after four of five plays, I am running to get on the ball and be a leader out there on my second team group.

"It's my time. I sat the bench for way too long. It is time for me to come out here and put my resume on film and earn the coaches' trust."

Cureton's performing better than ever, but with the help of Lawson and his staff which monitor the players every day of the year, his discipline is better than ever as well.

"This is the first year (at Higher Ground) where they said I can have free reign with the food, but I still walk to the dessert bar and coach Lawson is staring at me," Cureton said with a laugh. "I just walk the other direction like nothing happened.

"He said I am good, but I know deep down inside if I get that plate he is going to have me doing something out here."


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