Jon Stewart, who starred on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” until signing off last year, once starred on the soccer field for William & Mary.
That’s right, Stewart — John Stuart Leibowitz, “Leibo” to his teammates — played for three seasons (1981-83). He compiled 32 points on 10 goals and 12 assists.
As a senior, he scored the only goal in William & Mary’s 1-0 victory against UConn that helped win the 1983 East Coast Athletic Conference title and earn the school’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“Three years ago we beat Penn State in overtime at home,” he told the Hartford Courant, “but to come here and beat Connecticut on their own turf is the kind of thing you dream about.”
It’s the sports moment judged the greatest in school history, not just for the win but also for Stewart’s wit on the field. One story in particular captures the beginnings of an acerbic comedian:
Stewart also relied on humor to defang any anti-Semitic remarks or other barbs he encountered on the field. Once, when an opposing player made a joke about the size of his nose, Stewart responded, to the amusement of everyone within earshot, that size had never really been a problem for him. Stewart’s charm, says one former teammate, also made him “very popular with the girls.”
In his forward to Al Albert’s book on the history of William & Mary soccer, Stewart recalled his first meeting with the coach in 1980:
… when, as a freshman, I walked into his office to deliver the good news that I, an all-state soccer player (honorable mention) from a powerful program in New Jersey … had decided to grace the college soccer program with my presence. … Coach thanked me for my offer and gently explained the team was well stocked and he would be tracking my progress with their vaunted JV program, which turned out to be not so much a program as a sign-up sheet in a Greek kid’s dorm room.
In 2005, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America presented its Honorary All-American Award to Stewart.
By then, of course, Stewart had gone on to greater fame as host of the Emmy Award-winning “The Daily Show” starting in January 1999.
Five year later, and 20 years after his graduation, Stewart delivered the 2004 commencement address at William & Mary. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of arts and said:
“When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me, from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to this place. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better.”
Drop the mic and walk away.
Above and on the cover: Photo illustration courtesy of William & Mary Athletics
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Western Kentucky and Western Michigan
• Tuesday: William & Mary and Winthrop
• Wednesday: Wofford and Wright State
• Thursday: Yale and Zips (Akron)
• Friday: The Judge