WHEELING - Blaine Stewart's ankle, which he injured early in the fourth quarter during the 68th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Charity Classic at Wheeling Island Stadium, was visibly sore as he walked through the handshake line Sunday night. But Stewart, the son of Bill, the late West Virginia University football coach, and Karen - both New Martinsville natives - were wearing a smile that more than likely lasted well into the wee hours.
Sure, the West Virginia team for which he played upsetting Ohio by a 29-18 score in front of a near-capacity crowd had a lot to do with it, but there was something even bigger in play.
"Hopefully he's proud,'' Blaine said of his dad, who died of a heart attack a little more than a year ago while on a golf outing. "My dad talked (the game) up and it definitely lived up to expectations.
"Out here on the island, I've always wanted to get a win here in December. But I'll take this one here in July.''
It hasn't been the easiest couple of years for the young man whose formative years were spent growing up in New Martinsville - no truth that he too, like his dad, did a number on the local turnip population - before moving to Morgantown and playing his high school career for John Bowers, another Ohio Valley native who competed in football and graduated from Brooke. It's hard enough being a teenager with both parents, but it's especially difficult to have to deal with the every day struggles on top of losing your father.
Through it all though, Blaine Stewart has persevered.
"I've just tried to place my faith in the Lord,'' Blaine said. "And even though things may get tough sometimes, and I miss my dad like crazy, we're not given anything we can't handle, in my opinion.
"I just have to keep moving on with my life and trust in the plan."
Karen won't be moving, according to Blaine. She'll remain in Morgantown but will still be quite visible in her hometown.
"I think Morgantown's the home base but she'll definitely be around with grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles,'' he said. "We're always there and I love New Martinsville.''
Stewart, who will continue his academic and football careers this fall at James Madison, made quite the impact in the Mountaineers victory. He caught a couple of passes, including a 2-point conversion, and drew a pass interference penalty that directly led to a West Virginia touchdown.
"I was thankful to be placed in opportunities where I could be successful and all the credit goes to my coaches and teammates,'' Blaine said. "It's always great to play in front of friends and family and the people of the valley. They're great people.
"I'm from here and I couldn't have pictured a better way to end my high school career, than winning this game.''
West Virginia coach Mike Young, who hasn't lost a big game in Wheeling Island Stadium - maybe ever - spoke glowingly not only about Blaine Stewart the player, but also the man he has become.
"For me to have the opportunity to coach Blaine Stewart is an honor,'' Young said. "I say that because I had the utmost respect for his dad as a coach and as a father ... just how he lived his life. If I could emulate my life that way, I think I would be a pretty good person.
"I can tell you that his dad told me once that 'I'd love for my son to play for you.' He did and the outcome was positive.
"When I get to talk to him up there next time, I'll tell him what a great job his son did.''
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org