Where are they Now: Ronnie Cameron
Ronnie Cameron was the quintessential student-athlete. Not only was Cameron a dominant force at defensive tackle for two seasons at Old Dominion, earning First-Team All-America honors and being named the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, he was also a well versed student, earning his Master’s degree in business administration and being named the CAA’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Cameron spent the 2012 football season on three different National Football League rosters, the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. Cameron was active for five games with the Browns before being released and picked up by the Eagles for the rest of the 2012 season. After the season Cameron had a decision to make. He could keep trying to find a spot on an NFL team, or he could try his hand with Deloitte, one of the top-four consulting companies in the United States.
“I was recruited by Deloitte during the 2012 season. They kept contact with me throughout my career in the NFL and that was a part of the reason I decided to retire from the NFL,” Cameron said. “I knew I had the career I wanted waiting for me when I was done playing, which is why I made the jump into Deloitte with what I think I will be doing for a while.”
ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder talked to Cameron about his options and setting himself up for life after football.
“What I’m most proud of Ronnie for is he gave it everything he had to try to be an NFL player. He was able to exhaust all of his options, but he always had a plan B,” Wilder said. “He never lost track of his plan. He put together a great plan B and he is going to be tremendously successful.”
The career change from the NFL to Deloitte was an easy decision at the time for Cameron, but it got a little bit harder, as the Detroit Lions came calling with a contract offer, but Cameron had a good idea of what he wanted to do.
“When I was released from Philadelphia, Deloitte offered me the position. After that, I took a trip to Detroit to workout for the Lions and they offered me a contract,” Cameron added. “I sat down with the General Manager (Martin Mayhew) and I rejected the offer. We had about an hour-long conversation. I told him the reason why I rejected his offer, and he was completely good with it. He said 99 percent of people wouldn’t have the courage to do what I did. I did it because I felt like my life had another calling, that I was more than just a football player.”
When Deloitte came calling, it was time for another chapter in Cameron’s life. Aside from the Lions contract offer, several other offers came Cameron’s way, but he was ready to move onto another path in his life. Being able to help others and make an impact made Cameron’s decision easier.
“Where did I want to take my life at that point in time. I wanted to make a decision on; am I making an impact on someone else’s life that’s not my own? From an NFL stand point, will I do that, maybe with my teammates, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from doing something else,” Cameron said. “Do I think about it sometimes, yeah I do. But is there ever regret, no, because I’m doing what I want to do and I did get a chance to live that life.
Just because Cameron is no longer playing football does not mean he’s not a busy man, but however, just the opposite. Living in Washington, D.C. , his day starts with a 5 a.m. wakeup call and a workout before starting his workday with Deloitte at 7:45. His work at Deloitte ends at about 6 p.m. before he begins his next venture, working at Compass, a non-profit consulting firm also in Washington, D.C. until 7:30 p.m. From 7:30-11, Cameron returns home and works on BonFire Impact, an online network that is devoted to helping non-profit and community outreach projects. Cameron started the network in 2012 when he was with the Browns.
“BonFire Impact is a social news network geared toward non-profits, people who have a social driven mission,” Cameron said. “It is something I enjoy and hopefully continue to see it grow.”
Cameron came across ODU’s screen in 2009 when Hofstra dropped their football program. Cameron, along with Hofstra teammate, Deron Mayo, joined the Monarchs in the spring of 2010 and made an immediate impact on a young squad.
“One of the things we talked about when we recruited him was that he needed to present himself as if he was going to be a captain, and with in about two days of our kids seeing him in the weight room and on the field, it was clear he was going to be a captain,” Wilder said.
A two-year team captain at Old Dominion, Cameron had 72 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a junior and put together a dominant season for the Monarchs as a senior, delivering 73 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He earned six All-America distinctions, as well as CAA Defensive Player of the Year and CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors, on an ODU team that went 10-3 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs.
“Going to ODU was one of the best decisions I ever made. The mutual benefit for myself and the university, being able to help start a program after one was just dropped, but to get an MBA education, it was unreal,” Cameron said. “And also for us to play well. To say a new program was able to win this many games and reach the level of success so early on, being able to be one of the players that helped early on, not many people can say that.”
Cameron brought a lot to the table for the Monarchs in 2010 and 2011. Just a year removed from its inaugural season, Wilder needed Cameron to become one of the leaders of the team.
“What Ronnie brought to our team was instant credibility. Not only was he a great performer on the field and in the weight room, but he brought tremendous leadership ability, and at that point in the program, we needed that. We were a very young team and he had played in big games and had CAA experience,” Wilder said.
Throughout all of his athletic accomplishments, Cameron was also a stalwart in the classroom. Completing his undergraduate degree through Hofstra while at Old Dominion, and then completing his Master’s degree in a year.
“Academics is paramount. I was used to giving myself the time it took to make myself successful in class and in football,” Cameron said. “I tell anybody, my proudest achievement at ODU was being named the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year as well as being named CAA Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-American. Being able to do that was the icing of the cake for me individually at ODU.”
Wilder saw Cameron’s success on the field but Cameron’s impact in the classroom was just as meaningful in his time at Old Dominion.
“Ronnie Cameron and Thomas DeMarco set the standard of academic excellence here at Old Dominion. Ronnie’s path was much more difficult than most because he not only had to complete his degree from Hofstra, but then he went into an accelerated Master’s program here, and it was an incredible challenge for him,” Wilder said. “He had almost double the workload of our other players. So on top of what he was doing in the community and practice, there were some days where he put in 18-20 hours to get his work done. He has set the standard as high as you can possibly put it, of what our expectations are of an Old Dominion football player.”