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60 days until kickoff: James Stewart, 60 games, and underappreciated greatness

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James Stewart

With just 60 days until kickoff, let’s talk the other first-round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft who played 60 career games for the Jacksonville Jaguars — James Stewart!

Sharing the spotlight

For nearly the entirety of his five-year career with the Jaguars, Stewart had to share the spotlight. That’s not to say he was a bad player. He was very, very good and filled whatever role was asked of him admirably. No, it had less to do with Stewart’s talent as an NFL player and more to do with the Hall of Fame-caliber talent he was up against.

He was the second first round pick by the expansion Jaguars in 1995, picked No. 19 overall — 17 spots after cornerstone offensive tackle Tony Boselli.

And then later on in that draft there was another running back named James Stewart taken by the Minnesota Vikings.

Then he played second fiddle to Natrone Means during the miracle seasons of 1996 and 1997.

And then Fred Taylor came along in 1998.

Hell, you can’t even find him on Wikipedia unless you add “football” to his name because of the actor from the 30’s and 40’s.

For a first round pick out of Tennessee, you look at how overshadowed Stewart was in his career and then take a look at his box score stats and you’d be forgiven for being disappointed. He averaged less than 600 yards a season and always had another running back sharing duties in the backfield. His only season as the guy was for the inaugural 1995 team.

But the one-two punch he provided with Means and Taylor was one of the biggest reasons for the Jaguars’ early success.

He helped wear down defenses in those early years to allow the bruising Means to do what he did best. He filled in for an injured Taylor and helped us to a franchise-best 14-2 record. That 1999 offense was built on two things — yards in the air and points on the ground.

Stewart, by himself, scored more touchdowns than Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell combined that year. Teams couldn’t tilt their defense towards the passing game like they normally would when the bell cow back was on the sidelines.

And then Stewart wanted to be the unquestioned starter and no one could blame him. He signed with the Detroit Lions in 2000 and had almost as many yards from scrimmage in three seasons (3,752) with them as he did in five seasons with us (3,804).

And then Stewart’s career came to a sudden halt when his shoulder was shattered by Buffalo Bills safety Coy Wire.

Here’s to you, James Stewart — and the 60 games you gave us.