CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Friends, former players and colleagues frequently mentioned Bill Stewart's heart Monday, but not because of the massive attack that took his life suddenly at the age of 59.
"He gave his heart to the Mountaineers," said Don Nehlen, a former West Virginia University football coach. "This absolutely makes me sick, just absolutely sick. I just can't believe it."
Stewart died Monday afternoon after suffering the attack during a round of golf at Stonewall Jackson Resort, where he was participating in an annual charity event with the West Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association.
WVU confirmed Stewart's passing with a brief statement at 3:18 p.m.
The New Martinsville native was an assistant coach for the Mountaineers from 2000-07 and elevated to head coach from 2008-10. He compiled a 28-12 record - including the 2008 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma when he was the interim coach - over three-plus seasons at West Virginia.
He resigned last June and the Dana Holgorsen era commenced.
Stewart succeeded Rich Rodriguez, who had retained Stewart as an assistant when Nehlen retired following the 2000 season.
"I knew Bill for a long, long time with him living in New Martinsville and having such a great love for the Mountaineers," said Nehlen, who coached WVU from 1980-2000. "I knew he was down on his luck and he was up there coaching in Canada. I knew he didn't want to live there or coach up there and I hired him.
"This is just so sad. He was such a good person."
Stewart accepted the interim tag when Rodriguez left WVU for Michigan after the 2007 regular season.
Stewart coached quarterbacks and rose to associate head coach during Rodriguez's seven seasons in Morgantown.
"It's a sad day for the state of West Virginia and a sad day for the Mountaineer football program," Rodriguez said from Arizona, where he is in his first season as the Wildcats' head coach. "It's especially sad for Bill's many friends, family and former players.
"Everybody enjoyed working at West Virginia and enjoyed working together, but I don't think anybody enjoyed it more than Bill.
"It was just infectious and it rubbed off on everybody there, whether it was with the recruits, families, players, fans or the other coaches."
Rodriguez's staff at Arizona includes former WVU assistants Calvin Magee, Rod Smith, Jeff Casteel, Tony Dews, Tony Gibson, Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood, all of who worked alongside or for Stewart.
"We have a lot of people here who were close to Bill," Rodriguez said. "It's a very sad day for a lot of people."