“When he was really young, we put him down in front of the TV to watch football when he was upset,” Cam’s father, Ryan said. “It was the only thing that would settle him down.”
Cam, named after Cameron Indoor Stadium and now seven years old, began playing Pop Warner football at age five. Cam’s mother, Heather, became concerned about Cam’s size and the hits he took during practice.
“We started to question if it was the right sport for him,” Ryan said. “So we thought about lacrosse because it gives you all the contact, focus, and scoring of football.”
Ryan did not know much about lacrosse, so he decided to reach out to Duke attack Case Matheis. Ryan followed him on Twitter to ask the best way to get his son started playing the game.
Matheis recommended Ryan get Cam a lacrosse starter kit including sticks, balls, and nets to learn the basics. That was all Cam needed.
“He sleeps with his sticks,” Ryan said. “I mean the kid lives and breathes lacrosse.”
It was clear early on Cam had natural talent. He played fall ball at age six, scoring more than ten goals in the league in his age group. When you ask what he likes about playing lacrosse, Cam lights up with a smile.
“Scoring,” Cam said. “I like scoring goals.”
He quickly moved up to compete against third and fourth graders with the Red Devil United elite travel team. Routinely taking the field as the youngest and smallest player on the field never slowed him down.
“All that aggressiveness came from playing football,” Ryan said. “He’s not scared to take it at anyone. He’s a beast on the field.”
As Cam’s passion for the sport grew, so did his fandom for the Blue Devils. This past season, Cam and his dad attended every home game and made it to the Final Four to see the Blue Devils capture the 2014 National Championship. Former Duke attack Jordan Wolf and the rest of the team grew closer to Cam with each game.
“He was always the first one around the locker room and the last one to leave, decked out in Duke lacrosse gear,” Wolf said. “He was always hanging around us and wanted to be around us.”
“We don’t get a lot of people that come to our games on a consistent basis at our school,” Matheis said. “To have that kind of support of Cam and his dad, it’s hopefully the start of something cool with the Durham and North Carolina community.”
A special moment came after a Duke 20-9 victory against Marquette this past season. Wolf brought Cam down to the locker room to give him a pair of his gloves, but not just any pair. Wolf handed him the gloves he wore when the Blue Devils captured the 2013 National Championship against Syracuse.
“I looked at Jordan and asked him, ‘Do you really want to give him those?’” Ryan said. “Jordan told me he planned to get another pair.”
“He was just one of those special kids who was always there,” Wolf said. “I felt like it was almost my obligation to welcome him to the program and show him around, to show him how unbelievable Duke University is and the lacrosse program.”
The team’s relationship with Cam reflects a bigger change for the lacrosse program as a whole. Following the rape scandal in 2006, Duke players and coaches have worked to build up their off the field reputation.
“Hopefully it’s kind of a start of a new era of Duke lacrosse,” Matheis said. “Obviously our program never forgets what happened in 2006. We spend every day trying to improve the brand of Duke lacrosse.”
“I think Coach D (Head Coach John Danowski) was the perfect person, role model, teacher, and coach to take the program in a positive direction,” Wolf said. “Especially for me coming in after the scandal, that’s something I really wanted to be a part of, rebranding ourselves and being a positive influence on people in the community.”
Ryan says when you get to know the Duke players, you see they reach out to fans because they truly care, not just for recognition.
“The experiences that he’s getting from these guys, I hope he passes it down when he gets older,” Ryan said. “You don’t see this type of stuff in everyday life, let alone sports.”
It is clear the team has already impacted Cam, as he knows exactly what he wants to do when he grows up.
“I want to play for Duke.”