Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00
If Westbury native and Holy Trinity grad Ronnie Cameron receives a call from a National Football League general manager in late April, his road to the pros will certainly be one less traveled.
Cameron, who recently earned an information technology MBA, began his football career playing with friends in front of Park Avenue School in New Cassel and as a member of Mineola’s pee-wee program as a 7-year-old, yet described his younger self as more student than athlete.
“Westbury didn’t have a pee-wee football program at the time so I had to be a part of the Mineola Football Chiefs. It was a great chance and definitely gave me a great start with football.
“At that age football was something I enjoyed doing but it wasn’t a long-term career goal. I was more so on the nerdy side as a child. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up and that soon changed to a technology analyst, which I ultimately went to school for,” said Cameron, who, at 6 feet 2 inches and 295 pounds, might be best suited for less celestial endeavors for the time being.
The 22-year-old NFL prospect played football throughout his middle and high school years at the Westbury School District before transferring to Holy Trinity Diocesan in Hicksville after his sophomore year. Rules prohibited the transfer from playing in his junior season, but Cameron still saw the opportunity to gain exposure on and off the gridiron.
“Attending and playing for Holy Trinity High School helped me prepare for football at the next level in a major way. The coaching staff, led by coach Tony Mascia, taught me about the small things to perfect in the journey of being a great football player. They also taught me the ‘ins and outs’ of being a team leader and taking responsibility for those around you,” said Cameron, who led the Titans to a 2006 CHSAA AA Championship and was named to the All-Long Island team as a senior.
The Catholic school standout soon accepted a full-scholarship to Hofstra, where he red-shirted his freshman season before contributing on the defensive line for two seasons, eventually earning CAA Academic All-Conference and Hofstra Athletics Academic Honor Roll honors.
In the classroom, where Ronnie had gained so much, happened to be place where he learned that another part of him had been taken away.
“I found out Hofstra dropped their football program through a text message. I was in class, finishing up an exam and I received a few urgent text messages from one of my roommates saying to get over to the football facility – they’re dropping our program,” said Cameron, who initially dismissed the text as a prank, but not for very long.
“I got there and saw teammates and coaches with tears in their eyes and then I knew it was real. I broke down with emotion because I knew my family just had fallen apart and it was so sudden. It still stings because we had a close-knit family that was ripped apart because of a ‘business decision,’” Cameron recalled.
Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz issued a statement regarding the unanimous decision to eliminate the program “in order to redirect those resources toward academic initiatives and need-based scholarships.” Rabinowitz said the University “could not continue to justify the expense of football compared to the benefits it brought to the University,” which left 84 student-athletes in limbo – scholarships were honored but football was gone.
“There are many of us with ill feelings toward the Hofstra administration because of what transpired back in December of 2009,” Cameron said, adding that he’s in regular contact with some former teammates, many of whom went on to study and compete at different schools as well.
This time around, Cameron’s transfer circumstances meant he could play immediately at his next school, which turned out to be Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA) – a team that also played in Hofstra’s former conference, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Two seasons later, Cameron became a team captain and the first player ever to earn 1st Team All-American, CAA Defensive Player of the Year and CAA Scholar Athlete of the Year honors.
Though his work in class and on the field left him little downtime, the well-rounded Cameron knew a full plate would leave him satisfied once he cleared it.
“It was a lot to juggle but I knew that my hard work would pay off so I stuck to a strict schedule that didn’t allow me much time to myself but it was well worth it. Seeing the success of our 2011 Monarch football team and being able to complete my MBA in 16 months were two of my proudest achievements in life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Cameron.
Now that Cameron has reached his goal academically, he can shift the focus to his next goal, which will test both his mental and physical strength – training for his NFL scout’s “Pro Day” on March 14 in Norfolk, where he’ll show how his talents can potentially help a professional football franchise.
“I’m training at TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, N.J. under the tutelage of Brian Martin and Kevin Dunne. I was also afforded the opportunity to play in two all-star games – the Casino Del Sol Game in Tuscon, Arizona and the Players All Star Classic in Little Rock, Arkansas. They both have given me further exposure to scouts and NFL personnel for further evaluation beyond just my film from my two seasons at ODU,” said Cameron.
Keeping his followers updated with his progress on his Twitter page, Cameron tweeted that he’s now up to 300 pounds and on Feb. 18 announced he scheduled his first NFL visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I have spoken to over 75 scouts from 30 NFL teams since the beginning of the 2011 season. I’ve been fortunate enough to leave a positive impression on all of them, which will hopefully bode well for me in April,” said Cameron.
And while he’s destined for yet another transfer of sorts, friends and fans of Ronnie Cameron can – based on a list of accomplishments longer than his nearly 80-inch wingspan – safely assume that on whatever road he may travel, success won’t be far behind.