Ronnie Cameron was the only player eligible for last year's NFL draft who not only had an undergraduate degree, but also an MBA.
It's a point of trivia, perhaps, but it's not trivial to who Cameron is.
After transferring to Old Dominion from Hofstra, the defensive tackle wasted no time zeroing in on his goals, taking 18 to 21 credits each semester, along with summer classes, to get both degrees in four years. Whereas it usually takes at least two years to earn an MBA, Cameron got his in about one.
It meant spending a lot of late nights with the books and eschewing a social life. His time at ODU revolved almost entirely around studies and football, an ultra-focused approach that he says today he doesn't regret.
"The hardest part was timing and knowing you have to sacrifice certain things to accomplish this goal," he was recently quoted as saying. "I was used to working so hard and putting so much effort into school, that when it came to football, something I truly enjoy, it made it a lot easier."
Cameron was passed over in the draft but signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent. After being waived last summer, he caught on with the Cleveland Browns. Recently, he was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cameron has yet to make an impact in the NFL, but as he works to get on the field, he hasn't neglected his other aspirations, the ones that make him a unique pro athlete.
Last month, Cameron was featured in a medium unfamiliar to most athletes: Forbes magazine. For a man of only 23, whose parents own their own businesses, being cited by Forbes was "a dream come true."
The column, from which the above quote is taken, lauded Cameron's work ethic and highlighted his creation of a website for social activism.
Bonfire Impact is a news network that attempts to raise awareness of the good works and positive news in the world. Through aggregated content and original writing, it promotes advocacy, charitable endeavors and green initiatives.
"It's a complete contrast to what the mainstream media offer," Cameron said last week during a visit to ODU. "There are more people doing good things than the media would have you believe. People who are doing the right things are getting attention for it on this website."
At ODU to support his former teammates on "pro day," Cameron said his site has been up five months and averages a few hundred visitors per day.
"People are looking for positive news and don't know where to find it," he said. "Hopefully, I created that place."
Cameron's educational choices at ODU have put him in line to work for a national firm as an IT consultant and project manager when his football career is done. Bonfire Impact, which he said "happened on a whim," is a merger of his technological interests, business acumen and social consciousness.
"People truly believe we live in the worst of times," said Cameron. "Can you blame them? We're so hell-bent on talking about the things that are wrong, people just lose hope."
In providing "a perpetual cycle of good, instead of a perpetual cycle of negativity," his website presents examples of average people from around the globe acting on their charitable instincts.
"We hope to inspire people, even in the smallest ways," said Cameron. "They may read about something someone is doing and say, 'I can do that, too. I can go down to the soup kitchen and help. I can hold a blood drive.'
"If people can be encouraged to perform acts as incremental as giving a helping hand to someone who truly needs it, think how better off this world would be for it."
It turns out that even as Cameron was engaged in the narrow pursuit of grades and football, his mind was expanding. He's an athlete whose thoughts reach far beyond the field. Imagine that.
Soon, he'll report to the Eagles' minicamp, hoping to improve his prospects, this time under Chip Kelly. Cameron is curious as to what to expect from the former Oregon architect, who has a reputation for being a different kind of coach.
"Different," Cameron said, "is sometimes better."
He should know.
Bob Molinaro, 757-446-2373, firstname.lastname@example.org