Stewart is the career leading rusher in Washington prep football history. At Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington, from 2001 to 2004, he rushed for 7,755 yards and scored 105 touchdowns. In 2001, as a freshman, he rushed for 1,279 yards on 95 carries (13.5 avg.) and scored 15 touchdowns. In 2002, as a sophomore, despite an ankle injury causing him to miss almost half of the season, he rushed for 1,609 yards on 153 carries (10.5 avg.) and scored 14 touchdowns. As a junior, in 2003, he rushed for 2,566 yards on 285 carries (9.0 ave) and scored 45 touchdowns. As a senior, in 2004, he rushed for 2,301 yards, averaging 11.2 yards per carry and scored 32 touchdowns. Against Centralia High School in 2004, Stewart rushed for 422 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
After his senior season in 2004, among several other honors, Stewart was named to the Parade High School All-American team, the USA Today All-USA team, and was the Washington Gatorade Player of the Year.
In addition to football, Stewart was on the school's track & field team, where he competed mainly as a sprinter. He placed third in the 100 meters at the prelims of the 2003 3A District IV Championships, with a season-best time of 10.90 seconds. He ran a career-best time of 10.78 seconds in the 100 meters in 2005, that still stands as the school's fastest time ever.
As a University of Oregon collegiate, Stewart competed in the 60-meter dash, recording a personal-best time of 6.88 seconds at the 2007 MPSF Championships, where he placed fifth.
In a national recruiting battle, Stewart chose the University of Oregon over USC, Notre Dame, Nebraska, California, Ohio State, and other schools.
Coming out of Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington, Stewart came to the University of Oregon as one of the highest profile recruits in the program's history. He was known for his rare combination of speed and size, recording a SPARQ rating of 97.54 as a senior in high school. Stewart's true freshman season was highlighted by a pair of kickoff return touchdowns which made him the program's first player to ever return more than one kickoff for a score. Stewart ended up leading the nation in kickoff return average (33.7 yards-per-return).
Stewart finished his freshman campaign with nine total touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving, and two kickoff returns) despite touching the football only 72 times. His 54 points made him the team's third leading scorer. An ankle injury suffered in a game against Montana would force him to miss action in two games and render him less than 100% in others. At one point early in the season, Stewart had accounted for five touchdowns in his first 20 touches of the football.
Stewart finished his sophomore season as the team's leading rusher. He finished 19 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing despite missing some time due to lingering ankle injuries. He recorded five 100 yard games in the season and the Ducks were 5-0 in those games. Stewart also caught 20 passes for 144 yards including a touchdown and he again finished near the top nationally in kickoff returning (sixth in the country). In Oregon's controversial win against the University of Oklahoma, Stewart impressed, rushing for 144 yards and a touchdown. In the final regular season game against rival Oregon State University, Stewart rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns. He finished his sophomore season with 10 rushing touchdowns and one receiving score.
Stewart and the Ducks opened the 2007 campaign 4-0, with wins over Houston, Michigan (in Ann Arbor), Fresno State, and Stanford. Against Michigan, Stewart ran for 111 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. He followed up that performance with 165 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just 17 carries against Fresno State. Stewart's second touchdown, an 88-yard scamper, was the longest run ever in the 41-year history of Autzen Stadium. The following week against Stanford, Stewart picked up a career best 310 all-purpose yards, including 160 yards rushing and a ten-yard touchdown run. In Oregon's showdown against Cal, Stewart ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, in a 31-24 loss to the Golden Bears. Stewart chipped in 66 rushing yards in Oregon's 53-7 win over Washington State, then had a record setting day against rival Washington. Stewart had a career-high 32 carries for 251 yards and two touchdowns, the latter being the second highest single game total in Oregon's history. Stewart continued his impressive play with a 103-yard, 25 carry, two touchdown performance against USC in Oregon's 24-17 home win. Against then #4 ranked Arizona State, Stewart ran for 99 yards on 21 carries (including a 33-yard touchdown scamper), caught two passes for 26 yards and another score, and returned five kicks for 122 yards. Stewart concluded his record setting season with a career-high 39 carries against rival Oregon State, accumulating 163 yards along the way. In Oregon's 56-21 bowl win over South Florida, Stewart ran for a career-high 253 yards, setting a Sun Bowl record for rushing yards and earning him the C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player award.
At the end of the 2007 regular season, Stewart was selected to the All-Pacific-10 Conference first team by league coaches. He also garnered All-America notice.First-team All-Pac-10 (2007)
Second-team All-Pac-10 (2006)
Pac-10 All-Freshman Team (2005)
Sun Bowl Champions (2007)
Sun Bowl MVP (2007)
Doak Walker Award Semifinalist (2007)
2005 NCAA leader in kick return touchdowns (2 TDs)
2006 NCAA leader in kick return yards (646 yds)
2007 Pac-10 leader in rushing yards (1,722 yds)
On January 11, 2008, Stewart announced his decision to forgo his senior season at Oregon and to enter the Draft.
On March 12, 2008, Stewart underwent surgery on his big toe and was expected to be out four to six months.
Stewart, was ranked among the top three running backs entering the April NFL Draft, along with Darren McFadden and Rashard Mendenhall.
Stewart was drafted by the Carolina Panthers, taken with the 13th overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft. On July 26, he signed a $14 million contract with a maximum value of $20 million. The deal included $10.795 million in guarantees.
Stewart would share carries with DeAngelo Williams, a first round pick from the 2006 NFL Draft. In his first game against the San Diego Chargers, Stewart ran the ball 10 times for 53 yards. In his second game against the Chicago Bears, Stewart helped the Panthers recover from a first half deficit, scoring two second half touchdowns from four and one yard respectively. Stewart finished with 14 carries for 77 yards and the first two touchdowns of his young NFL career.
Stewart had two solid performances gaining over 100 rushing yards in Weeks 11 and 14. In the week 11 game vs. the Lions Stewart rushed for 130 yards on only 15 carries, adding a rushing touchdown. In Week 14 against division rival Tampa Bay he ran for 115 yards on 15 carries with two rushing touchdowns. He would go on to finish the 2008 regular season with 10 rushing touchdowns, a Panthers rookie record. Stewart also added 836 rushing yards on 184 carries with a 4.5 rushing average in his rookie season. Stewart added his first postseason rushing touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals on January 10. In Week 6 of the 2009 NFL season, Stewart piled up 110 yards on 17 rushes with a touchdown. He and DeAngelo Williams combined for 262 yards in a victory versus their division foe, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In Week 13 of the 2009 season, Stewart made his first career start for an injured DeAngelo Williams, and recorded 120 yards on 26 rushes and a touchdown in a 16-6 victory over Tampa Bay.
In Week 16, Stewart, starting for the injured Williams, recorded a team record 206 rushing yards in a 41-9 win over the New York Giants in their final game at Giants Stadium, and earned FedEx Ground Player of the week honors. The performance lifted him over the 1,000 yard mark, making him and WIlliams only the sixth rushing duo in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. He later surpassed the 1,100 yard mark, making him and Williams the first rushing duo in NFL history to rush for 1,100 yards apiece. Stewart finished the season with 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns on 221 carries, slightly outperforming Williams in both categories.
Stewart started the 2010 season once again splitting carries with Williams, but gained the opportunity to start when Williams was placed on injured reserve; for the rest of the season, Stewart split carries with Mike Goodson, although he was credited with the starts for the majority of these games. In a year where Carolina finished 2-14, Stewart managed to rack up 770 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 14 games played and seven started, the worst statistical performance of his career.
In 2011, Stewart again shared carries with Williams, rushing for 761 yards on 5.4 yards per touch. Behind rookie quarterback Cam Newton, Williams, and Stewart combined, the Panthers had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.
On August 10, 2012, Stewart signed a five-year, $37.811 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. After sustaining an ankle injury in the 2012 preseason, Stewart continued to struggle to stay healthy for several parts of the season, ending with only 336 yards on 3.6 yards per carry at the end of the year.
In 2013, Stewart once again was plagued by injuries, only playing in six regular season contests. He ran for just 180 yards and had no touchdowns.
Stewart had a very solid 2014 season. He had arguably his best game of the season against division rival New Orleans Saints with 155 yards on 20 carries. He had a career long 69-yard touchdown run in that same game. He finished the regular season with 175 carries for 809 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Along with that, he had 25 receptions for 181 yards and one receiving touchdowns. Stewart led the NFL through weeks 12-15 with 437 rushing yards during that four week span. One of the NFL’s more elusive rushers, Stewart finished the season having forced 56 missed tackles combined as a rusher and receiver.
During a Week 4 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Stewart reached 5,000 career rushing yards. Going into the Week 5 bye week, Stewart had a total of 220 yards rushing on 59 carries. Coming off the bye week Stewart had an impressive game in a win against the Seattle Seahawks. He carried the ball 20 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns. This marked the first time Stewart had two rushing touchdowns in one game since 2009. Stewart recorded 125 yards rushing with 5.2 yards per carry in a Sunday night victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Stewart continued his high level of play during a Monday night win over the Indianapolis Colts, rushing for 82 yards along with a rushing touchdown. Stewart missed the final three games on the regular season with a foot injury. Even with the missed games, he finished with 989 rushing yards and six touchdowns along with 16 receptions with 99 yards and one receiving touchdown. Stewart finished eighth in the NFL in rushing.
In the NFC Divisional Round, Stewart rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to key Carolina's 31-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks. In Super Bowl 50, Stewart rushed for 29 yards on 12 carries and scored the lone touchdown for the Panthers. The Panthers fell to the Denver by a score of 24–10. For the season, despite missing three games, Stewart forced the second most missed tackles in the NFL among all running backs. He was ranked 86th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
Stewart again began the year as the Panthers starting running back, but missed three games following a hamstring injury in Week 2. He returned with 85 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans and 95 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona in weeks 6-7. In game 11 against Oakland, he again had two touchdowns, marking the first time since 2009 he had three two-touchdown games. He recorded a season-high 25 carries for 132 yards against Washington in Week 15. He led the team with 218 rushes for 824 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
On March 24, 2017, Stewart signed a one-year contract extension with the Panthers through the 2018 season.
2017, Stewart holds at least 13 panthers records, including:Rush attempts: career (1,501), playoffs (90), rookie season (184)
Rush yards: playoffs (423), rookie season (836)
Yards per carry: playoff season (5.22 in 2014), rookie game (8.67, 2008-11-16 DET)
Rushing touchdowns: playoffs (5), playoff season (3 in 2015), playoff game (2, 2016-01-17 SEA)
Total touchdowns, playoff game (2; with 3 others)
All-purpose yards, rookie season (1,232)
100+ rushing yard games, playoffs (2)
On March 9, 2017, Stewart and his fiancé, Natalie Hills, gave birth to their first child, a baby girl named Kaia Grey.
Stewart tends to rely on power over speed, while his former Panthers teammate DeAngelo Williams was/is a breakaway threat. This led to DeAngelo Williams nicknaming their rushing tandem 'Smash and Dash', which gained national attention after their 301-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Controversy ensued as Titans running backs LenDale White and Chris Johnson claimed they stole their nickname, and that they had invented it first. LenDale White called Williams and Stewart 'Identity' and 'Theft', and noted they had made T-shirts with 'Smash and Dash' on it. To determine a new nickname, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart created a website, and allowed fans to suggest names. They eventually decided on 'Double Trouble', and have retained that nickname, despite Chris Johnson later renouncing the nickname. He now is popularly named "Chea Boy" as of 2015.
Stewart is an aspiring music producer and reportedly told rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z, "I don't want to hear my music being played and someone degrading women. I'm limited to that factor, but there's a lot to be talked about. If anybody wants to use my beats, I want to maintain my integrity that I have as a person." Jonathan Stewart also spoke with Dubcnn about his music career, stating "Music isn't a business for me. I'm not trying to supplement my lifestyle with music. I love music and I play music everyday, whether it's my piano, or making a song. It's the same with Football, I get paid well to play Football, because I'm blessed to have a lot of skill, but I could never be this good without loving the game... I love to play Football as much as I did when I was a kid and played for nothing but love. Music is the same way. God blessed me with gifts for both and I love both, but I don't do music to make money at all. I love music, so why not let people listen to it."