Anacostia officially will name its football stadium after former longtime coach Willie Stewart in a ceremony during Friday’s game against McKinley, Indians Coach Cato June said. Stewart led the Anacostia football program for 29 years before being fired following the 2009 season for failure to implement a mandatory study hall for his team.
Despite the acrimonious end to his tenure at the school, Stewart remains beloved by a wide swath of the local community and well respected by area high school coaches. In 1994, Stewart was honored with the Giant Step Award, given annually by Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society to those that “exemplify the ideals and provide the support necessary for student-athletes to achieve academic and athletic success.”
June, who played for Stewart at Anacostia from 1995-97 and who took over his alma mater’s football program earlier this year, said Friday’s ceremony should have occurred long before now.
“It means everything,” June said. “To me, this is probably 10 years too late. But if there was one thing I wanted to do coming back to Anacostia it was to make sure that got done.”
Said Stewart, “I was in shock that he got it done. I was just elated when he told me that because I really enjoyed my coaching and teaching career here at Anacostia, so I was just speechless.”
Stewart coached at Anacostia (1981-2009) and Eastern (1976-80), leading the two programs to a combined seven Interhigh/D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association titles and 13 appearances in the Turkey Bowl. He’s had nearly two dozen former players go on to play in the NFL or CFL, and several of his former assistants later became head coaches at DCPS middle and high schools. He currently assists June with the Indians, who are 4-4 and have already equalled their win total from the past three seasons combined.
“He’s meant so much to this community, to Anacostia,” June said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. And I’m glad he can actually be here. Usually those things don’t happen until people are dead and gone. You kind of want people to appreciate some things while they’re actually still living.
“We want to make sure he understands what he’s meant to the school and the community. What better way to honor him than to name the stadium after him?”
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From 2009: End of an era at Anacostia