Sept. 17, 2006
by John Sudsbury, California Media Relations
[This story originally appeared in the September 16 issue of "Kickoff," the official California game day program]
It may not garner the headlines of Michael Jordan or Sugar Ray Leonard comebacks in the past, but the California Golden Bears had their own player come out of retirement for the 2006 season. Senior offensive tackle Andrew Cameron gave the Bears a 300-pound boost last spring when he re-thought his decision to end his football playing career.
After three surgeries in 10 months, the All-Pac-10 selection decided at the end of the 2005 season that enough was enough. He was hanging up his helmet and preparing for a career in the business world.
But as Sugar Ray once said, "There is nothing that compares to that feeling you get from winning."
Or more specifically, from Cameron himself: "The number one factor was the camaraderie of being on the team. I missed my teammates and I missed competing, winning games. Football is the ultimate team sport, so when you have success with your teammates, it's a special feeling. It would have been hard for me to watch this team win games this year and not be a part of it, knowing that I definitely could compete."
Not that Cameron didn't have ample reasons to yearn for a desk job. "Three surgeries in 10 months" is the short version and does not tell his true medical history.
As a sophomore, Cameron started all 12 games while helping the Bears to a 10-2 record and earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition.
Following the season, the Healdsburg, Calif., product needed surgery on both shoulders, one in January and another in February. After completing his rehab, the big man was ready for another strong season. In the second game of 2005, however, he suffered a concussion. After missing one full game, he returned to the starting lineup against Arizona on Oct. 1 ... and tore his right ACL (he had torn the left ACL in high school).
After that brutal stretch, nobody could question Cameron's decision. He was just chalked up as a fourth key offensive lineman departing - three others had left via the NFL Draft.
Despite missing spring practice, the Bears welcomed Cameron back with open arms, knowing that his work ethic would allow him to return to his previous level of excellence.
"The biggest challenge was definitely camp," Cameron said. "I got thrown into full-speed football and I hadn't done it in a while. Nu'u Tafisi [his defensive end counterpart on the Bears] is a monster, and he didn't let up on me and that was good. Every week through camp it picked up, and I got back to where I need to be."
The reward for Cal and its fans is that the Bears have an experienced veteran manning the all-important left tackle position, protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs.
The reward for Cameron is a return to the field and his team, as well as a chance to use his athletic talent.
"It felt good to go out there and knock guys around and be physical against Tennessee," he said. "I'm a big guy; God blessed me with a big body, and this is one place in society where I can use it physically."