Cameron Jenkins has a passion for football that dates back to when he was introduced to the sport as a first grader. He loved it from the start and has always had dreams of playing in high school and beyond.
After three seasons at St. John Bosco, Jenkins transferred last March to Orange Lutheran. Desiring a change, his new environment was a breath of fresh air.
“It felt like home,” Jenkins said of arriving at OLu.
Eager to join his new football family, Jenkins was in the midst of preparing for the fall season when he was notified of a possible CIF ruling that could declare him ineligible to play for the Lancers his senior year.
The news left Jenkins with a difficult choice – stay at Orange Lutheran and sit on the sidelines or transfer to a different high school and play his final year of high school football.
There was plenty to consider. But in the end, Jenkins felt the choice was clear. He chose to remain a Lancer.
“I took time to think about why I’m really at OLu,” Jenkins said. “If it was just about football, I would have transferred somewhere else. But it’s about so much more than football. Being here and seeing people who actually want to be here every day, it’s a different environment. That’s what I fell in love with.”
Determined not to walk away from football, Jenkins spent the summer months continuing to train and prepare for the season. His official CIF ineligibility ruling was handed down in October, and instead of throwing in the towel on the sport he loved, his commitment only grew stronger.
Jenkins stayed with the program, helping out his teammates and the OLu coaching staff any way he could, all with a positive attitude. Although he did not play in a single game for the Lancers, he practiced with his team every day and supported them from the sidelines the entire season, until the final whistle.
“I had already put so much time and effort into playing football, I didn’t want that to go to waste. I didn’t want it to end there,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to be there for my team and show them that just because something isn’t going your way, it doesn’t mean you have to give up.”
His decision was accompanied by some emotional moments, specifically when OLu traveled to St. John Bosco to face his old team, and again on Senior Night when the Lancers hosted Mater Dei. It was then Jenkins realized that he wasn’t quite ready to close the chapter on his football career.
So as he looks at his next steps after high school, Jenkins is pursuing opportunities to play college football, en route to eventually joining the United States Marine Corps, a career he has wanted since he was a young boy. When he graduates in the spring, he will be remembered for his kindness, strong work ethic and reliability.
“What stands out about Cameron is the love he has for the game of football, but also the pride he has in being a student at Orange Lutheran,” says Lancer football head coach, JP Presley. “What a blessing Cameron has been to the players and coaches here at Orange Lutheran.”
His choice may have been unconventional, but Jenkins’ decision to remain resolute and positive through a challenging time has likely made a greater impact on the Lancer family than any play he might have made on the field.
“I am so impressed and humbled by Cameron,” said Orange Lutheran Director of Athletics, Paul Jones. “The growing trend for student athletes is to run away when faced with unhappiness or adversity. But he chose to be a positive influence on campus and on his team by attending and participating in practice every day as a senior leader, knowing that he may not have the opportunity to play. That choice takes a tremendous amount of courage, discipline and strength. I believe Cameron's actions speak to his true character as a person, show the solid foundation his parents have equipped him with and make evident how important and impactful him attending Orange Lutheran has been. He will always be a Lancer.”
Jenkins has admittedly been overwhelmed by the support he has received this year from the OLu teammates, parents, students and staff. And while he may never get used to being referred to as a role model, Jenkins will never shy away from a chance to positively impact others.
“The fact that you can influence and change someone’s life without even knowing it is amazing,” Jenkins said. “My heart gets happy every time I hear that.”
As he looks in the rearview mirror on a football season that could have been, Jenkins has no regrets. He instead sees a lifetime of memories made with a community that has brought him great joy.
“Everything here is driven by faith,” Jenkins said. “It’s what I love about being here – the faith, the positive attitudes and all the support I get. It’s unreal.”by Jenelyn Cunningham Russo ‘88