Josh Stewart first felt dazed when he his head hit the ground on a near-touchdown catch against West Virginia in the second half.
“But after, I wouldn’t even say two minutes, I started feeling better,” Stewart said. “But I still had a little headache.”
So Stewart stayed in the game. Later in the fourth quarter, however, Stewart caught another pass and banged his head on the turf again.
“That second one, my head was already sensitive,” Stewart said. “I hit my head against the ground again, and that was when I was done.”
And thus began a week of uncertainty, as the Cowboys wondered if they would be without their best offensive player against Kansas State because of a concussion. Fellow receiver and emerging playmaker Jhajuan Seales was in a similar situation after hurting his head late in the fourth quarter of that game. And head injuries continues to be a critical issue at all levels of football.
“I was just thinking, ‘It’s a fun game for me, I love it, but protect yourself,’” Stewart said. “This concussion is not nothing to play with. You get a certain amount of them, and then you have to quit football.
“Mainly I was thinking, ‘Make sure you’re alright. Don’t try to rush back. I know you love the sport, but this is your life you’re talking about and it could affect you in the long-term.’”
Stewart did not practice Tuesday and, thus, didn’t get as many reps as he would during a typical week. But by Thursday, he felt ready.
“I was back there catching punts and my focus was real good,” Stewart said. I was still able to judge whether to catch it or not.”
Stewart and Seales, of course, were both cleared to play against the Wildcats. Stewart was largely a non-factor, catching two passes for 20 yards yet dropping a sure touchdown on a deep ball. But he had a crucial 12-yard grab on the Cowboys’ game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
“College football is a lot more competitive,” Stewart said. “So it was gonna be tough for me to come back and just completely dominate like I thought I would, but I realized I was just trying to be out there for the team.
“The concussion thing, I don’t want to say it played a factor in the game, it was not one of my better games. I didn’t have a good game at all, but I stayed in there and started to fight for the team and we came out with a ‘W,’ and that’s all that matters.”