Chris Stewart closing book on rare double

Notre Dame offensive lineman Chris Stewart will have to battle against future NFL draft picks in the trenches during the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Miami's front four on defense are a load to handle.

Stewart, though, can't wait for the challenge. By the time he gets to El Paso, Texas, the 350-pounder will feel like there's a lot less riding on his shoulders.

He has two papers left to write to finish an unprecedented double-duty. Stewart is completing his second semester of law school at Notre Dame, something the Irish say has never been attempted by a player at this level.

There's a reason no one does it. Stewart, as you might imagine, didn't get much sleep this semester trying to be both barrister and blocker.

"It's exhausting," he said. "But I think it was good to get a jump on my education."

Stewart's classes included criminal law, contracts, legal writing and research and a special studies course on sports law. Having begun this path in the spring, he got an understanding of the demands. That was a prelude to the fall and the increased time constraints posed by practice, games and other football responsibilities.

"You just do the best you can and when you have some down time, try to get ahead a little bit," he said. "When you can't, you just go along with it and do the best you can and don't fret it. My professors were understanding, knowing no one had ever tried to do it before. I still had to complete my work the same way, but they respected that there were just some things I would not be able to do."

Stewart used some of the time on early-season road trips to work on his schoolwork, but he tried not to let that distract him from football. Instead, it was the other way around. He called practices and games "my escape from the real world."

Law school didn't often get in the way of his football chores, except when it came time to take the four-hour exams. His most difficult assignment? Remembering all the terms and rules of contract law for that marathon final.

Would Stewart recommend that other follow his example?

"It's pretty difficult," he said. "People have to know what the work entails and what it leads to. You don't have time for a personal life and don't have time to really be a student. You're a really a professional at that point, the way I see it."

Once Stewart finishes his two 20-plus page papers -- one on criminal law and another on the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement -- he'll put law school on hold to pursue a possible pro career. He hopes it will be years until he's finished in the NFL, but when that's over he'd like to do something in either international criminal or business law.

And when he turns those papers in, he'll be ready to head to his home state (he's a Houston native) and turn all his attention to football. No matter how tough those Hurricanes may be.

"That," he said, "will be really nice. "