By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Instant gratification: Defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron was awarded to the Browns off waivers from the Bears on Aug. 14. He had one practice before the team left for Green Bay.
He entered the Packers game late in the third quarter and on his fourth snap on the field, he joined end Auston English in harassing Graham Harrell into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, which was recorded as a safety.
On Green Bay’s very next offensive play, Cameron stuffed Packers rookie back Marc Tyler – a USC running back, no less -- for a loss of 1 yard.
Now, in terms of professional debuts, this won’t nudge the meter, seeing as though it came in the fourth quarter of a second preseason game, against the Packers’ scrubs. But relatively impressive, nonetheless.
And you will find it falls in line with Cameron’s background, as a whole.
“Ronnie Cameron is probably the most mature person I’ve ever met at his age (23),” said Chris Cabott, Cameron’s agent.
How he got here: Let’s go back in reverse chronological order. The Bears waived Cameron because they had a surplus at defensive tackle and they needed a body at another position. These are the teams that claimed Cameron: Browns, Eagles, Lions, Texans, Giants. (All but the Browns are legitimate playoff contenders.)
Cameron went undrafted out of Old Dominion because a hamstring injury suffered while training for the NFL combine accounted for a horrendous 40 time of 5.38. After the draft, he was immediately courted by nine teams. The Browns, having used draft picks already on John Hughes and Billy Winn, were not one of them.
Of all the players eligible for the NFL draft, Cameron was the only player who already possessed bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His MBA is in information technology.
“He built a computer from scratch when he was 10 years old,” Cabott said.
Cameron, who is from Long Island, N.Y., enrolled at nearby Hofstra University. After playing two years there, Hofstra disbanded its football program. Cameron transferred to Old Dominion, which had restarted its program at the former Division I-AA level after a 69-year absence.
After Cameron committed to Old Dominion, he received a full scholarship offer from Boston College, which competes in the top division of college football. Media attention in the Big East can further a prospect's NFL draft status. Cameron turned down BC as a matter of principal – he made a commitment to ODU and he was honoring it.
“I went there because I thought I could help build something special,” Cameron said.
After going 17-5 in Cameron’s two seasons, ODU has moved to the more challenging Conference USA.
Football wasn’t a career goal for Cameron until scouts started noticing him during his senior season, when he had 6.5 sacks. He finished with 12 in 22 games in two seasons.
Cameron is 6-2 and playing now at about 290 pounds. He has the body for the “Tampa 2” defensive style that asks its tackles to be penetrators first. Dick Jauron’s defense requires a more “two-gap”, watch-for-the-run style. But Cameron thinks he can adapt and fit, from what he has seen early in his time here. Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor are helping him get up to speed, he said.
“As I learn and grow within this team, even though I have a lot to learn, I feel over time I can eventually make an impact,” he said. “One thing great about Cleveland -- we’re a young team. We’re all competitive. It’s not like everybody’s entrenched here for the past 5-10 years. Everyone’s young and wants to make a difference. Everyone wants to turn Cleveland around.”
A unique upbringing: Cabott, who is understandably biased being Cameron’s agent, says, “His parents are heroes of mine.
Cameron’s mom immigrated to America from Haiti at the age of 16. His father did the same from Trinidad at age 17.
“They came here with literally nothing,” Cabott said “And both found a job quickly in a factory. They fell in love at 23, bought a home in Long Island for like $5,000, rebuilt that, rehabilitated it themselves, turned it into a day care center, and did the same with another property.
“The reason they’re heroes of mine … you look at our country today and you see folks who make excuses for not getting anything done. These are people who came with nothing and built a wonderful life together. They have three kids, all college educated.
“Ronnie Cameron is as old-school as they come. No tattoos. Very chivalrous. Very much into doing the right thing. He’s just a joy to know.”
Cameron eventually wants to be an IT consultant for a Fortune 500 company. For now, he is pleased to pursue his football career as far as it will take him.
“Hopefully, I did some good things to show they want to keep me around. Whether it’s the 53-man roster or the practice squad. In any capacity, I want to be here,” he said.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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