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ODU's Ronnie Cameron has always been the man with a plan
Ronnie Cameron built a computer from scratch when he was 10.
He purchased a shell, a motherboard, a hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. He wired and programmed it with the help of “Computers for Dummies.”
Back then, Cameron didn’t figure on being a college football player and most certainly knew nothing of Old Dominion University, the school for which he now stars.
Back then, his game was chess, and he was good enough to play in the New York State Championships. Sure, he played a little football, but it was all for fun.
When he transferred from Westbury High to Holy Trinity Diocesan before his junior year, he knew he’d be banned from playing ball for the season. It didn’t matter: He had transferred for the academic opportunity.
He had his sights set on the Ivy League. Columbia, Princeton and Penn were at the top of his list. He saw himself as the next Donald Trump, attending the
Had things gone according to plan, Cameron might be strolling down Locust Walk in the middle of the University of Pennsylvania campus this afternoon.
Things don’t always work out the way we envision them. And that’s not always such a bad thing.
Ronnie Cameron by the numbers
In 2010, Cameron’s 72 tackles ranked second on the team behind Craig Wilkins’ team-leading 74 tackles.
Cameron’s 5½ sacks in 2010 ranked second on the team behind Deron Mayo’s 6½ sacks.
Cameron’s 19 tackles for loss led the team and ranked ninth in the nation in the Football Championship Subdivision.
After two games this season, Cameron leads ODU in tackles with 17, sacks with 2½, tackles for losses with 4 and quarterback hurries with 5. He had a team-high 8 quarterback hurries (rushing the QB to throw the ball faster than planned) a year ago.
Cameron holds the school single-game record for tackles with 14. He did that against North Carolina Central in the Monarchs’ last game of the 2010 season.
As a senior at Holy Trinity, Cameron played defensive end. To say he burst onto the scene would be an understatement. Two games into the season, Hofstra University offered him a football scholarship. Not bad for someone who didn’t play as a junior.
The son of immigrants – his father, Ronnie Sr., was born in Trinidad, and his mother, Ritha, in Haiti – Cameron weighed the options.
“If I’d gone to Penn or some other Ivy League school, I was going to be scrambling all the time to make ends meet,” he said. “I would have spent a lot of time seeking out grants and applying for loans. “Hofstra said full ride. I said yes.”
Cameron, who turned 22 a month ago, should still be playing football for Hofstra. It was a good fit for him. It was home. He had been born two miles from campus at Nassau University Medical Center, and he had made many friends there.
After red-shirting as a true freshman, Cameron began establishing himself as a force on Hofstra’s defensive front four. His academic prowess continued when he made the Colonial Athletic Conference’s All-Conference Academic team.
Had things gone according to plan, Cameron might be strolling down Meadowbrook Place this afternoon, headed for practice at Shuart Stadium on Hofstra’s campus.
Things don’t always work out the way we envision them.
And that’s not always such a bad thing.
Dec. 3, 2009, will always stick in Cameron’s head.
It was the day Hofstra’s football program died. It came as a shock. Cameron was attending a management 101 class when got a text message about his football program’s demise. Chaos ensued.
Cameron talked seriously to at least a dozen college coaches as programs from across the country descended on Hofstra’s campus, trying to snatch up players. In the end, Cameron entertained offers from Old Dominion and Massachusetts. He made the first recruiting trip to ODU. He made the second to UMass.
Playing for the Minutemen would have let him stay closer to his native Long Island. UMass also has a rich football history, having won the Football Championship Subdivision’s national championship in 1998.
Had Cameron ended up at UMass, though, he would be playing a short season this year; the Minutemen decided last spring to leave the FCS and join the Football Bowl Subdivision beginning in 2012, so they are ineligible for the playoffs.
Had things gone according to plan, Cameron might be strolling down Commonwealth Avenue in the middle of the UMass campus this afternoon, contemplating his team’s upcoming game against Rhode Island. And if Cameron were there, he’d know he would be home for Thanksgiving, for that’s the first week of the playoffs, in which UMass won’t be participating.
Things don’t always work out the way we envision them. And that’s not always such a bad thing. On opening day of this season, Cameron and his older brother Garry went to the Sports Zone in the Ghent section of Norfolk.
After almost two years here, Cameron has learned his way around town. They were there to get replica ODU jerseys. Mom, Dad and brother wanted everyone to know Ronnie Cameron was their kin. For Mom and Dad, Cameron bought No. 96 jerseys with “CAMERON” sewn across the back shoulders.
Garry wanted something different, so he had “DAS MY BRO” sewn onto his. “We were walking down 21st Street and he was stopping people on the sidewalk and saying, ‘This is Ronnie Cameron, he plays football at ODU,’ ” Cameron said.
He is, according to coach Bobby Wilder, the complete package. “Great person, great student, great athlete,” Wilder said. “I’m always asking our players if they have their 10-year plan in order. Ronnie is one of the few who knows where he wants to be in 10 years.” Cameron chose ODU because Wilder and his staff made – and kept – some promises.
Cameron needed only a semester more to graduate from Hofstra when he transferred to ODU, so Wilder made sure all of his classes would transfer.
Cameron walked with the 2010 spring graduating class. It was important to Cameron, who took pride in earning his undergraduate degree in three years. He has spent the past 15 months pursuing a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in information technology.
His high school coach, Tony Mascia, isn’t surprised. “I remember him walking into my office the first time like it was yesterday,” said Mascia, the Titans’ coach for the past 21 years. “His parents hardly opened their mouths. Ronnie did all the talking, and he spoke like a 30-year-old.
He knew then what he wanted and how he wanted to get it done.” Cameron’s plan was to get an MBA in finance while playing football at Hofstra. “But when the economy tanked, I jumped ship,” he said.
Had things gone according to plan, Cameron would have had a degree in finance at a time when the economy is in crisis. Things don’t always work out the way we envision them. And that’s not always such a bad thing. When Cameron walks in December to receive his MBA from ODU, he might have to put off using that degree for a while.
This season, no fewer than 10 NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, have sent scouts to ODU’s practices to see him in action. Cameron is a bull on the field.
While the pros probably would like it if he were a little taller than 6-foot-2, he carries a tightly packing 296 pounds on that frame. “If he can put together a 70-tackle season with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for losses, teams will take an even closer look,” Wilder said.
He faces double-teams regularly. “I like Warren Sapp’s approach to that,” Cameron said, referencing the NFL Pro Bowler who helped Tampa Bay win a Super Bowl nine years ago.
“He said, ‘If teams are double-teaming you, that means they think enough of you to game plan for you.’ ” With parents from the West Indies who grew up playing cricket and soccer, Cameron had no family background in football.
“Now, I think about playing on Sundays,” Cameron said. “I’m not naive. It’s in the back of my head. What was once a dream is now more of a goal. It’s something to work for.” If things go according to plan, Cameron might hear his name called in next spring’s NFL draft. If it happens, he will be the first Old Dominion player to be drafted.
That’s what Cameron envisions – his cell phone ringing and some NFL general manager welcoming him to the club. Sometimes things do work out as we envision them. And that would be a really good thing.
By Rich Radford, The Virginian-Pilot