Arizona football and head coach Kevin Sumlin have found their running backs coach. He’s AJ Steward, who spent the last two seasons at Brigham Young University.
“We couldn’t be happier to be welcoming AJ to the Arizona Football Family,” Sumlin said. “AJ brings a work ethic and experience that will impact the development of our student-athletes in a very positive way. His passion for the game, passion for making a difference and his recruiting background make him a great fit for our staff.”
Steward will be entering his ninth season as a coach after a successful playing career at the University of Kansas. He helped BYU average 4.4 yards per carry last season, while posting 25 rushing touchdowns. The Cougars averaged 159.1 rushing yards per game and played in the SoFi Hawai’i Bowl against the University of Hawai’i.
A year earlier, the Cougars averaged 153.2 rushing yards per game and had 27 rushing touchdowns on their way to a 7-6 season and a win over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
“My wife Virginia and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Tucson and make the University of Arizona our home,” Steward said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue my coaching career under someone like Coach Sumlin, and I can’t wait to get to work with our young men!”
Prior to his time at BYU, Steward spent six seasons at Rice, first serving as a graduate assistant and then as the running backs coach for four seasons. In 2017, the Owls rushed for 187.0 yards per game under Steward’s guidance. That ranked second in Conference USA and 38th nationally.
From 2013 to 2016, Steward tutored Rice running backs Darik Dillard and Jowan Davis, who finished seventh and eighth in career rushing yards at Rice. The two combined for 4,226 yards and 36 touchdowns in their career under Steward’s eye.
During the 2015 season, Rice had four running backs rush for 100 or more yards in a game for the first time in school history. Two running backs, Samuel Stewart and Austin Walter, were named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.
In his first year as running backs coach at Rice, the Owls went 8-5 and beat Fresno State in the Hawai’i Bowl. He has coached in five bowl games in his young coaching career.
Before he began coaching, Steward played in 37 games over four seasons for Kansas. He was originally recruited as a quarterback, before switching to wide receiver, and eventually, tight end. He earned the team’s Scout Team Player of the Year award in 2007 when Kansas played in the 2008 Orange Bowl and was a four-time member of the athletic director’s honor roll while with the Jayhawks.
Information for this story was provided by the UA’s Communication Office.