Random meeting led to DC’s return

Greg Stewart
Greg Stewart

Nathan Brown didn't think anything of it as he walked away from the conversation.

In his mind, it was just a pair of old friends and colleagues catching up.

Brown was down in DeLand, Fla., watching the University of Central Arkansas softball team during the ASUN tournament this May. There, he ran into Greg Stewart, UCA's defensive coordinator from 2014-17, when Brown was the offensive coordinator.

Stewart took a year off of coaching after spending the previous four seasons as South Alabama's defensive coordinator. He was in town to watch his daughter, Holly, who was the starting third baseman for Jacksonville State's softball team.

One year off was all Stewart could stomach before he got tired of his time on the beach and needed to put the whistle back on.

"[Stewart] said, 'I'm gonna coach somewhere. I don't know where it's at yet, but I'm going to coach somewhere.' " Brown recalled.

"And his [wife] Angie was sitting there and she kind of rolled her eyes and said 'He's coaching somewhere.' "

Two weeks later, when UCA defensive coordinator Matt Kitchens left for a role with Ole Miss, Brown thought back to the conversation he had with his old friend.

"The first phone call I made was to [Stewart] and basically said, 'You remember we had that conversation two weeks ago? You want to come back to Conway?' " Brown said.

As soon as Holly's softball season came to an end, Stewart gave Brown a call and accepted the position.

"I'm old, but I think I still got a few good years left in me," Stewart said. "... I wouldn't just go into any situation. I have been blessed [that] I can be very selective."

Stewart moved to Conway for the second time, this time living with just one of his four daughters. Holly will work with UCA's softball team in the spring as a graduate assistant.

He went right to work this summer making tweaks to a defense that allowed 31.9 points per game last season.

The first change was getting sophomore Jake Golday onto the field.

"If we was to play that first game, the first play and I look and he's standing beside me on the sideline, I would say that's bad coaching," Stewart said. "So we got him on the field, moved him to linebacker. You can tell he ain't stood up in a little bit, but he's getting it every day. He's getting better and better."

Stewart and Golday will see their first action today against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

Stewart and Brown were former Coach Steve Campbell's coordinators the first time the Bears made a trip to Stillwater, when they fell 32-8 in 2015.

Brown said he remembers nearly everything about that trip, from the locker room set up to the tight sidelines and especially the result.

"Defensively we played well enough to win that night, "Brown said. "As the offensive coordinator, I didn't do enough for us to win that game. And so obviously, I didn't hold my end of the bargain up on that night."

With Stewart back on the sideline, Brown brings someone on his staff with experience upsetting FBS programs as an FCS team. When Stewart was the defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette, he beat Ole Miss 49-48 in 2010. In 2021 with South Alabama, he beat Florida State 20-17.

"I think the mistake that FCS teams make when they play [FBS teams] is they think it's the end all, be all, like it's superman. But it ain't, it's just another game," Stewart said.

To close Sunday's practice, Brown gave his team a clear message of how he is approaching the matchup with the Cowboys.

"We're going over there to win the dang game," He said.

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