Stewart, Canterbury to play football
By Greg Seubert
High school seniors from across Wisconsin recently signed national letters of intent to take their athletic talents to the college level.
They include Waupaca High School’s Zion Stewart and Brenden Canterbury, who will play football at Upper Iowa University and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, respectively.
Stewart first met Upper Iowa’s football coaches at a three-day football camp at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota.
“College football has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “My mom pushed me to keep my grades up and keep playing football. Football kept me out of trouble.”
Stewart, who moved to Waupaca from Louisiana in middle school, already has a connection to Upper Iowa, a Division II school located in Fayette, Iowa.
His mother, Desiree Gunter, graduated from Upper Iowa in 2011.
“The coaches were looking to recruit me since my sophomore year,” he said. “I kept in contact with them throughout my junior and senior year.”
Stewart, an all-conference second team defensive lineman as a junior, is one of a handful of Wisconsin players the Peacocks recruited for the 2018 season.
“I’ll take advantage of it,” he said. “I put in a lot of hard work to get to where I’m at. There’s a lot of competition and I’m ready for it.”
“This year was kind of tough for Zion,” Waupaca football coach Tom Noltner said. “He had some injuries that kind of nagged him. Without those injuries, he would have been recognized as all-conference. He has the physical tools, the work ethic and the knowledge of the game to play at the next level.”
Canterbury led the Comets in rushing and interceptions as a senior and was an honorable mention all-conference defensive back.
He said the Pointers are looking at him as a safety.
“I was hoping to make myself better and hoping a college would be looking at me,” he said. “Having to compete is the greatest thing because I’ve always been competitive. I know I can challenge myself and better myself.”
The Pointer compete in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which includes Division III national championship contenders UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater.
“This is the best Division III conference in the entire United States,” Noltner said. “This is the toughest one. For you to be able to play at one of these schools, it’s a great accomplishment because you must be good. You’ve got to be good nowadays.”
Stewart and Canterbury are the latest in a long line of Waupaca football players that have suited up for college teams.
“It’s not too many athletes that can move on like this,” Noltner said. “These are two very talented young men who can move on and will be successful in college as they play football.
“This is a great opportunity,” he added. “You learn so much more than we can teach you here at high school. Just the life experiences and the traveling that they’re going to get to do and they’ll have a great time in everything the do. Will it be difficult? Yes, but they’ll stick with it and learn a lot as they grow and progress through school. They’ll see more playing time and have memories that they’ll never forget.”
Before they head off to college, however, Stewart and Canterbury are looking forward to wrapping up their high school athletic careers on the Comet baseball team.
Canterbury helped lead Waupaca to a WIAA Division 2 state championship in 2016, but Stewart said he hasn’t played baseball since the fourth grade.
“I’ve always had a passion for baseball, but I felt like the fit for me (in college) was football,” Canterbury said.
“I’m doing baseball this year,” Stewart said. “My friends pushed me to join the team. I’m going to try my best to get on varsity.”