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Old Dominion’s Ronnie Cameron: Leaving No Man Behind on Monarchs’ New Journey

May 6, 2011, 2:47 PM EDT

2011 CAA Football Spring/Summer Feature Series
By Zach Burrus, CAA Communications

If you have ever seen “The Pursuit of Happyness”, you probably walked away with an understanding that the journey is often more important than the destination. Old Dominion’s Ronnie Cameron, whose favorite film is the aforementioned feel-good flick starring an Oscar-worthy Will Smith, has long understood the moral of the movie’s story. In fact, he embodies it.

The Monarchs’ defensive tackle came to Norfolk by way of Hofstra, which eliminated its 72-year football program following the 2009 season. Leaving the friendly confines of his native Long Island and heading four states southward was a definite change for Cameron. But change is often made easier by familiarity, which for Cameron was the sense of family so very present in the Monarchs’ program. He explains, “I was an older guy who was coming into a new program that had high expectations for me, but I quickly saw that it was like a family here and everyone was very welcoming.”

Cameron fit right in with his newfound family, so much so that he was named a team captain that fall. Earning a captain’s role before ever even playing in a Monarch uniform was a significant accomplishment for Cameron, who explains, “It was a great feeling. It meant a lot to me that the guys trusted me and believed in what I had done. Some people were surprised because I was so new and you typically only see guys who have been in a program awhile becoming captains. But it was a big honor.”

Landing some kind of leadership role was at the top of Cameron’s list upon arriving at ODU. He knew it would only come with complete focus and dedication though, which is just what Cameron displayed. He says, “I really came in and worked hard in the weight room and in the classroom; both on and off the field. I wanted my teammates to depend on me and once they trusted me I was then able to take on a leadership role.”

In our short time speaking with one another, I quickly realized that Cameron was a born leader. He exudes positivity, character and a genuine drive to make his teammates better. Cameron has also set incredibly high standards for himself, as has always been the case, and is intent upon holding his teammates to that same standard, saying, “It’s important to always make sure guys understand what they need to do and the standard they should be holding themselves to. I want everyone on our team to have high standards. Every team has championship aspirations, and I want to make sure everyone is holding themselves to that same standard.”

When in a leadership role, setting such high standards requires the right approach; one in which everyone understands their individual role as part of a larger team. In talking with Cameron, it is clear that he has arrived at the correct approach. As a vocal leader, he values constant communication with his teammates in order to ensure that everyone is aware of their roles. He explains, “I’m more vocal out there on the field. I’m letting guys know what we’re doing so everyone knows what’s going on. I’m usually only right there focused on the upcoming play a second before the snap because I’m looking around the entire time to make sure everyone knows their role.”

As vocal as Cameron tends to be, he is also a leader by example. In his eyes this involves total heart and dedication, which then leads to subsequent success on the field. He explains, “I give everything I’ve got game in and game out. I always feel that I have something to prove. I’m trying to give my all for the entire team and stay at that level. I just keep plugging away because it’s going to be hard to talk up dedication to my teammates when I’m not performing at a high level myself. I can’t say much if they don’t see me out there doing it. I want to be a leader by showing the team what it is I’m doing on the field.”

His leadership must continue with the Monarchs now set to make their move to CAA Football this fall. The CAA, considered by many as the toughest conference in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), is an unknown but long-awaited challenge for which the Monarchs have been readily preparing. Given his playing days at Hofstra, Cameron is someone with considerable knowledge of the league and ready to guide his teammates in taking on some of the country’s toughest competition.

Despite this fall being ODU’s inaugural season in the highly competitive CAA, Cameron is nothing but optimistic when it comes to his outlook on the Monarchs’ 2011 season. He realizes his playing days with the Pride provide him an opportunity to offer his teammates a unique perspective on the upcoming season. When asked how his CAA experience benefits the team, Cameron answers, “It helps a lot. I can let the guys know what the league is all about and what to expect week in and week out. This is such a great conference top to bottom, and you definitely have to bring your A-game every time. I tell them [his teammates] it’s something to be excited about because you get a chance to play good football week in and week out. I think having me here helps so it’s not like going into the season as a complete unknown.”

While the 2011 season is undoubtedly top of mind, Cameron is also equally focused on bringing his A-game into the classroom. Striking the proper balance between the gridiron and his grades is a foremost concern for Cameron. A graduate student in information technology, his typical day is incredibly busy and generally involves waking up by 6:00 a.m. and working in the campus IT department until Noon. He then heads to the football facility for treatment or a workout before afternoon practice. After a quick bite to eat he is off to his evening classes, which is followed by homework and finally some much-needed sleep.

Cameron along with ODU punter Jonathan Plisco during Norfolk’s Make A Wish event.

As busy as he often is, Cameron always finds the time to serve as a positive presence in the community and on campus. One of his most memorable experiences was a visit to a middle school in Raleigh, N.C., where his brother currently teaches. Cameron saw the experience as an opportunity to speak as a successful student-athlete to younger students who are not always provided with positive male role models nowadays, saying, “You never know what kind of impression you can make on kids and can maybe even change their lives.”

Cameron is all about making a difference, whether it is on the field, on campus or in the community. His presence on and off the field is felt by all and has quickly made him a favorite among the Norfolk faithful. With an energized fan base behind them, the Monarchs are set to begin their journey in the CAA this fall in full pursuit of a championship. And if Cameron has anything to say about it, there is no doubt a good deal of happiness will be found along the way.