Kordell was 11 when he lost his mother, Florence, to liver cancer, and he says his childhood ended soon thereafter. Robert, whose father died of a heart attack when he was 13, got his first job—selling old newspapers to an animal hospital in New Orleans—when he was 11. He grew up fast and thought his son should do the same. "From the time my mother passed on, my father treated me like a man," says Kordell. "As I look back, I think I needed that discipline. Things got pretty rough down where I live, and I have to thank Daddy for keeping me in line. One of my goals is to get him out of that neighborhood and move him out into the country."
A cousin was shot to death in New Orleans while Kordell was away at school in Colorado. A number of his hometown friends have turned to drugs and violence, he says, but he was always too busy playing football. "The worst thing he ever did," Robert says of Kordell, "was come home at five after 12 when I told him to be home at 12."
At Colorado, Stewart came under the tutelage of several accomplished offensive coaches, including Gary Barnett, who is now the coach at Northwestern, and Rick Neuheisel, now the Buffaloes' coach, who was his favorite, though Stewart only spent one year at his knee. "If I'd had [Neuheisel] since my freshman year, I would have gone in the first round," says Stewart. "He taught me about coverages and gave me confidence."
Stewart believes that his experience as a receiver and a runner will make him better at quarterback when he finally returns to full-time duty there. It already has boosted his popularity in the Steeler locker room, largely because he has shown the guts to go after a ball over the middle, the standard measure of a receiver's heart.
Stewart says there is only one thing he won't do for the Steelers—turn in his number. He wore number 10 in college, and he intends to stay number 10. The league, of course, does not take lightly any violation of its sacred numerical system. A receiver, who should wear a number between 80 and 89, starts wearing a quarterback's number (1-19), and the next thing you know, there's a bandanna on his head and his shirttails are hanging out—in a word, anarchy.
Back in October the Steelers began to sense that Slashmania was spreading when they received their first complaint from the league. It seems some other teams were concerned that Pittsburgh was breaking the rules by using its third quarterback at another position. This, of course, never happened with Stewart. He only saw action after he was added to the active, 45-man roster, and he was listed as a quarterback/receiver because, well, that's what he was. "The league said we should list him as a wide receiver, and they wanted to know why we didn't give him a wide receiver's number," says Steeler director of football operations Tom Donahoe. "We weren't doing anything wrong. We just thought it was fun for us, and fun for the fans."
Fun for the team, fun for the fans. What a strange concept. Somebody had better sue before this gets out of hand.