In 1995, Brian Stewart was a young coach eager to pursue an opportunity at his alma mater, Northern Arizona.
Stewart, who was hired in January 2012 as Maryland's defensive coordinator, did not make a lot of money at that point. He had only been a coach for two years -- previously at Cal Poly -- and he had taken a restricted earning position at Northern Arizona.
To help, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, then an assistant coach at Northern Arizona, offered for Stewart to stay rent-free in his basement, and Stewart accepted. The two, who will see each other Saturday when the Terps play at Wisconsin, have been friends since.
“As far as knowing Gary as a person, I don’t know if I know a better person,” Stewart said.
Stewart did not know Andersen before taking the position at Northern Arizona. However, after the then-30-year-old Stewart accepted the job, the then-31-year-old Andersen told Stewart he had a big basement and that Stewart was welcome to stay there instead of having to pay for an apartment.
“It was awesome, rent-free, coach ball, and it was an awesome situation for me,” Stewart said. “It helped me, and I learned a lot from him.”
Stewart said he lived with Andersen for the whole season before taking a graduate assistant position at Missouri for the following year.
“At that time, my big deal … was just, what do I have to do to be better?,” said Stewart, who was a position coach in the NFL and a defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys and at the University of Houston before joining Maryland. “I had only been coaching two or three years at the time, and I wanted to be a good coach. I wanted to be the best coach that Brian Stewart could be. And that’s one of the things I used Gary to do was ask him some of the things he felt.
“He was a young coach at the time, too, but he had more experience than myself.”
While Stewart said he does not remember any particularly funny stories from living with Andersen, he said he did smile this week while looking through Wisconsin’s media guide as he saw that Andersen’s son, Keegan, is married and a graduate assistant at Wisconsin.
“I remember when he was running around, so that’s exciting to get a chance to see him,” said Stewart, who said he has not seen Keegan Andersen or Andersen’s wife, Stacey, since 1995.
After leaving Northern Arizona following the 1996 season, Andersen spent six seasons as the defensive line and special teams coach at Utah and one year as the coach at Southern Utah.
Andersen then returned to Utah, where he coached the defensive line for a year before taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator, a position he held until becoming the coach at Utah State in 2009. Andersen was at Utah State for four years and helped to improve the Aggies from 4-8 in 2009 to 11-2 in 2012 before being hired at Wisconsin last year.
The Badgers were 9-4 under Andersen last year and are 4-2 heading into Saturday’s game against Stewart and Maryland.
Stewart said he keeps in touch with Andersen periodically.
“We’re not bosom buddies where we talk every day, [but it's] a congratulations here or start of the season or stuff like that,” Stewart said.
The bigger focus for Stewart this week has been trying to devise ways to slow down the offense led by Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
Wisconsin is averaging a Football Bowl Subdivision-best 343 rushing yards per game and an FBS-best 7.4 yards per carry. How much Stewart's defense can neutralize that running game will likely go a long way in determining whether the Terps will win Saturday.
“Offensively, coach Ludwig is their offensive coordinator, and I have been around his offenses before,” Stewart said. “He was at Fresno State, Cal Poly and some of the places I have been around or played against. He’s smart. He is going to do a lot of things as far as disguise-wise, shifts and motions.
"Basically, he’s going to be running four or five plays, and he is going to run them right at you, and you are not going to find the gaps or where you’re supposed to be because of the disguises of the shifts and the guys going in motion.”