Finally with Florida, Stewart Reese savoring final season with family

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
UF offensive lineman Stewart Reese

Although he doesn’t regret his time at Mississippi State in the slightest, Florida offensive lineman Stewart Reese initially expected to join the program as an in-state signee. 

Prior to enrolling in Gainesville this offseason as a graduate transfer, the 6-foot-5 native of Fort Pierce spent four seasons in Starkville, Mississippi, including two under head coach Dan Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy, but Reese admits he would have donned the orange and blue from the jump if it weren’t for a communication breakdown on the recruiting trail with Florida’s previous regime. 

“At first I was originally going to be committing to Florida, but there was a mixup in communication with my interest in coming here. They moved on,” Reese revealed. “I wasn't communicating enough with them (about) my interest. And at the time, I didn't understand the extent of the situation I was in at the time, so I was just going about it lackadaisical and then realized that, you know, there’s a deadline the day after meeting that if you don’t show an interest, they’re going to move on. So, that was the majority of my fault, but, you know, take it to the chin and move on.”

Reese’s recruitment did advance –– quickly, in fact, thanks to Jamar Chaney, a former Bulldogs player turned coach under Mullen. 

“Luckily for me, Jamar Chaney, I don’t know if y’all know about him or not, but Jamar Chaney played for Coach Mullen,” Reese said. “We’re from the same area, grew up in the same area. He put in a call to Coach Mullen and told him about me. Next day Coach Mullen was at the house for a visit. I committed, I think, a week after my official visit.”

It worked in his favor despite not being the originally intended destination, as the 348-pound Reese would start 34 games over three seasons with the Bulldogs after redshirting as a freshman in 2016. After starting his collegiate career at right tackle, he moved inside to right guard last season without a drop-off in production, and his status as a starter in 2020 under Mike Leach was seemingly guaranteed.

Reese started considering the transfer portal, however, following coach Joe Moorhead’s departure from the program; he didn’t want to play for a third head coach, and Gainesville was alluring in more ways than one. Reese would even watch Gator games while with the Bulldogs, and he was often able to spot the same plays Mullen and Co. used to run in Starkville. 

“I was always happy to watch the games. You know, being in that system, I could see a lot of the plays that I could remember playing for Coach Mullen,” Reese said. “I was always happy to turn on and watch Florida.”

Yet the presence of Mullen’s coaching staff in Gainesville was hardly the only appeal. With just one season of college football remaining, Reese wanted his final go-round to be with his younger brother, Florida redshirt sophomore linebacker David Reese. 

“That was a huge factor, being able to come back and play with my little brother again,” he said, “There’s a bunch of different factors: being close to home, being closer to family, being able to play with my little brother and being able to play for Coach Mullen and that staff, like I said before.”

Early indications are his transfer was a wise decision for both parties, as Reese has been a durable and stable presence through two games this season. He’s been on the field for every offensive snap. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has ensured 2020 won’t soon be forgotten –– Reese isn’t letting circumstances out of his control affect his current situation, however. 

“It’s been a journey to get here. Felt good to come back to play for Coach Mullen and the staff I was originally recruited by. It’s good to come back to my home state to finish out my college career. There’s nothing like playing in The Swamp. Given the circumstances with COVID and everything going on, it’s not as much of an experience as it would have been if we did not have this pandemic going on. But it’s been a wonderful experience up to this point,” Reese said. “I can’t wait to finish out the season.”