ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Why Darian Stewart decided to sign a contract extension to stay a Bronco ultimately boiled down to one thing: It's hard to leave home.
That he has flourished in Denver and won a Super Bowl as part of a historic defense of course played a role in his decision, but it was the birth of his daughter, Hayden, in 2015 that gave added incentive to securing his career where his family grew and put down roots.
"Any time I can take care of my family for the long haul, I'll take it," Stewart said. "That's another reason I made this deal. My baby girl was born here. That was another reason I signed here.
"It's not always about the money. I love winning. I love everything we have within the organization, from the coaching staff, to the strength coaches, all the way down to the video guys. We have a good group of men here. I love being around them. I love coming to work with them every week."
With wife Whitley and Hayden sitting in the front row of the Broncos' media room, Stewart beamed. The day before he signed his four-year extension, he and Whitley celebrated Hayden's first birthday. More birthday celebrations will await them in Denver in the years to come.
With his wife and daughter by his side, safety Darian Stewart signed the contract that will assure his place in Denver for years to come. (photos by Ben Swanson)
"It's exciting. It's just a happy day," he said. "My baby girl and my wife get to experience it with me."
Stewart, who joined the Broncos as a free agent in 2015, might never have known NFL life with another team had he begun his career in Denver as a college free agent in 2010, which nearly happened.
He flew under the radar in college after four productive years at South Carolina playing in a hybrid safety role. But as Stewart prepared for the draft, analysts expected Stewart to be little more than a special teams player.
After signing with the Rams as a college free agent, Stewart had a promising first four seasons — he started 13 games in his second year — but the Rams didn't view re-signing him as a priority, so Stewart signed with Baltimore, where he first caught Gary Kubiak's eye. When the Broncos hired the offensive coordinator to be their new head coach, he recommended Stewart for an opening at safety, and the rest is history.
Stewart completed the No Fly Zone, the Broncos' intimidating secondary that made life difficult for any quarterback that challenged them. A quiet foil to the more chatty members of the defense, Stewart is more satisfied with letting his play do all his talking. His impact plays are numerous: a game-clinching interception in his first game as a Bronco, an interception on Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, a sack and forced fumble in Super Bowl 50 and, most recently, a two-interception game against Drew Brees and the Saints.
The opportunity to create more career moments with the same group of talented defensive backs was another reason why Stewart wanted to secure his future with the team.
"I took all of that into account," he said. "We have guys that extended for some years and that camaraderie makes us better as a team. We trust one another. I love those boys like my brothers. I'm happy to be able to play with them with another four [years]."
With his career and his family life blooming, Stewart leapt at the opportunity to avoid any free-agency uncertainty and to provide his family stability during his daughter's formative years.
"I knew when I had a chance to sign here, the opportunity to [do that], that I would take it," he said. "The love that I receive from this organization, the city and the fans, I love being here. My family loves being here. I thought Denver is for us."