12 Sep ‘Competitive’ Cameron drives Panthers
by Mark Oliver
Julian Cameron may only be in his third season playing football, but when it comes to experience, the Heber Springs senior already has a leg up on his competition.
“I started playing football during my sophomore year, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the game,” Cameron said. “As a soccer player, the coaches encouraged me to try to kick a football, and it took off from there. What really drew me into football, though, was the brotherhood. You look to your left and right and you’re seeing a brother that you’re taking into battle every single Friday. There’s nothing quite like it.”
Cameron was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 28 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team, sponsored by Conway Ortho and Sports Medicine, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank, boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. The senior kicker was nominated by his head coach, Darren Gowen.
“Julian is an extremely driven young man,” Gowen wrote in his nomination. “He sets his mind to something, and he works really hard to achieve it, on or off the field. He is a competitive guy and strives to be the best he can be both in athletics and academically.”
Two seasons in, Cameron has already made his mark on the Heber Springs football program. As the holder of nearly all the school’s kicking records, the senior eyes one elusive achievement this season.
“My goal this season is to kick the longest field goal in Heber Springs history — 54 yards,” Cameron said. “It’s the only kicking record I don’t have. In practice, I’ve kicked farther than that. In a preseason scrimmage this year, I made a 48-yard field goal. Each day, I’m working on keeping my fundamentals in check and working my best to master them.”
After a winless start to their 2018 campaign, Cameron and the Panthers eye this week’s match-up against Harding Academy as an avenue to showcase their hard work.
“As a team, we’ve learned a lot from each of our losses this season,” Cameron said. “Most importantly, we learned that we have the potential and the talent to win. This week, we’re working hard on defending against the deep pass. In the kicking game, I’m working on my accuracy and consistency. As a team, we must work harder than we have this year. This team is going to go as far as we allow it to go. We have a high ceiling with the talent that we have, but we need to buckle down and do the jobs that we’re asked to do.”
As a kicker, Cameron is thrust into many high-pressure situations every game — something the senior says that he thrives on. “I love the pressure,” Cameron said. “It’s one of the most intriguing things about being a kicker. During a game, you may only have one or two chances to really prove yourself, and it is important to make the best of those opportunities. Every chance I get to attempt a crucial kick, I get pumped up for the chance to go out there and do it.”
“Julian is a very accurate kicker who also has a strong leg on kickoffs, and that results in good field position for our defense,” Gowen wrote. “He is very accurate, and with age and maturity, I believe his leg will be even stronger this year, which will mean more touchbacks. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do this year.”
Off the field, Cameron plays midfield for Panthers soccer and is involved with Beta Club at Heber Springs High School. In his free time, the senior plays soccer for AR United Soccer Club and enjoys swimming and playing volleyball with friends and family.
“Julian gives back to the community by helping coach some of the younger kickers and soccer players,” Gowen wrote. “He is always willing to give a word of encouragement or teach them a certain skill. He is a good student and is willing to help his classmates out to help them understand something that he has a grasp of. He will also ask for help when needed.”
After high school, Cameron dreams of playing sports on the collegiate level.
“My dream is to go to college and play sports,” Cameron said. “I’ve been working hard to achieve that. I love football and soccer equally, so I could go either way. Right now, I’m focused on getting my name out there, developing my skills and we’ll see what happens.”
“Julian is an ultimate competitor, but he also understands the importance of sportsmanship,” Gowen wrote. “He encourages his teammates on the field, in the weight room and on the practice field. I have seen him help opponents up off the ground and encourage them after the games. Julian is a good kid.”
Heber Springs plays at Harding Academy at 7 p.m. Friday.