Their dream was always to play at OSU together after J.W. committed to the school in February of 2010. But the Cowboys never displayed much interest, and Stewart instead pledged to play cornerback at Texas A&M.
One night that December, however, former OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen called J.W. and asked if Josh would thrive in the Cowboys' offense and if he would think about switching his commitment if an OSU offer came. Absolutely to both, J.W. said.
The next morning, Josh changed his pledge from the Aggies to the Cowboys, all but making it official that Josh and J.W. would continue their journey together in Stillwater.
“I couldn't believe it,” Josh said. “I knew it was bad that I was committed to A&M and to just decommit, but an opportunity like this, I don't care who's mad at me. You can't beat this.”
J.W. arrived first in Stillwater, graduating from high school early so he could participate in spring football in 2011. He knew he would redshirt, however, while superstar Brandon Weeden quarterbacked OSU to its best season in school history.
Stewart, meanwhile, became the Cowboys' most impactful true freshman last season. He caught 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns, recovered a fumbled kickoff for a score against Texas Tech and averaged 20.1 yards per kick return.
None of that early success surprised John.
“He's just got great ball skills, great quickness and his football IQ is off the charts,” Josh's old coach said. “He's got a knack for making big plays at crucial times. I think the Cowboys are in for a treat with him for the next three years.”
But Josh gives a lot of credit to J.W., who naturally was his roommate during their first semester at OSU.
“The way he just leads me to do things,” Josh said, “the stuff he tells me to make me work harder is really the reason why I had a good season like I did last year.”
Josh and J.W. both needed each other's guidance and support during practice this spring.
Josh was sliding into a starting spot at inside receiver, a position previously occupied by the sure-handed Josh Cooper. J.W. was in a three-man battle for the starting quarterback job.
“He has always been the guy that's critiquing me the most, and always the guy that's supporting me the most,” J.W. said.
“He's always in my head saying, ‘Hey man, you're better than that, you can make that throw.' And he's always the first one to come up and tell me, ‘Hey, nice throw, good read.'”
Josh had an impressive spring and is expected to be one of the Cowboys' top receiving targets this fall. Wes Lunt was named the OSU starting quarterback, but with J.W.'s unique skill set, all signs point to him also being involved in the offense in some way.
That means the pair will likely share the field as college football players for the first time this season.
As Josh and J.W. prepare to start their second fall camp as Cowboys, their lives remain linked.
They spent plenty of time together this summer, both while running quarterback-receiver drills at home in Denton and while going through OSU's summer workout program.
They continue to be competitive and, well, act like brothers. If one lifts more weight, the other will put an extra plate on for the next set. They played each other in the finals of OSU's NCAA '13 video game tournament, a matchup Josh won 16-13. They'll argue about who can run faster, just for the sake of arguing.
“We've come to learn there's some things we can't bring up,” J.W. said. “Because if we do, we'll go on and on about it.”
But they also take care of each other like brothers. One day two weeks ago, Josh shot J.W. a text before workouts asking if he had eaten lunch yet. When J.W. said no, Josh showed up with food for both of them.
“There are just always those little things that he does that can almost change your day,” J.W. said.
Josh looks back on being displaced by Katrina as a bittersweet experience. The flooding didn't reach the second story of his old home, meaning his family was eventually able to retrieve photos and his Little League trophies. He misses his childhood friends, but knows he benefitted from playing high school football in Texas.
“I have friends back home that are still at home that were better than me at football,” Josh said. “I think it's a good deal for me and was a blessing for me to get put in that place (Denton).”
J.W. and Josh used to sit on the couch and map out their futures in the NFL. Josh vowed he would go back to New Orleans and play for the Saints. J.W. would suit up for the Dallas Cowboys. Their families would consistently reunite somewhere in between both cities.
Who knows what really will come next for both players? But they are both certain their friendship — their brotherhood — won't stop after Stillwater.
“It's definitely going to last forever, for sure,” J.W. said.
Said Josh: “The memories are only going to get better. Everything about it is only going to be better. To have somebody like that, especially as a best friend, it's like, how can you not like everything?”
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