Ronnie Cameron did not major in football.
The 23-year-old defensive tackle spent the last three weeks of the 2012 season on the Eagles’ practice squad and is hoping to make an impression on Chip Kelly and the new coaching staff in the coming months.
But it’s what Cameron is doing away from the field that sets him apart. Athletes are often asked what they’d be doing if they weren’t playing sports for a living. For Cameron, answering that question is no problem at all.
The son of two immigrants – his Mom came to America from Haiti when she was 16, his Dad from Trinidad when he was 17 – Cameron was constantly reminded about the importance of a good education, growing up in Westbury, N.Y. So when it came time to go to college, Cameron decided simply graduating would not be enough.
He wasn’t leaving school until he got his MBA as well.
“I took an extremely heavy workload, but it was one of those things where that was my goal going into college – to get both degrees done while I was still playing ball,” Cameron said. “I had to take a hit in terms of a social life, but I vowed to make that happen.”
His college career started at nearby Hofstra, but after the school dropped its football program, Cameron was forced to transfer to Old Dominion, where he earned his MBA with a concentration in Information Technology.
And now, Cameron is putting that degree to use, having launched a Web site called Bonfire Impact that he describes as a network of activism, awareness and good works.
“The mission is to reach out to people of all different walks of life and have them come together in one place and learn and become more aware, so they can have the knowledge and the information they need to help other people who are in need of help,” Cameron explained.
The idea for the site came to Cameron when he was with the Browns last season. Cameron spent eight weeks on the practice squad before getting moved up to the active roster. In his spare time, he did work in the Cleveland community and met people who were trying to make the city a better place and help young people.
Yet as a consumer of media, all Cameron read about were negative stories.
“I felt like there was another platform that was necessary for people who were doing the right things,” Cameron said. “I actually read the news a lot, and it’s always negative coverage – whether it be politics or crime.
“I first-hand got to hear from a lot of great people, and I feel like that needed more media attention. I took it upon myself to just start the company myself.”
Cameron now has a staff of 24 volunteers – comprised of interns and recent graduates. Log on to the site, and you might read about an art auction at the Super Bowl that benefited young New Orleans jazz musicians. Or about what’s being done worldwide to help Syrian refugees.
The site just underwent a re-design, and Cameron is thinking big. Ask him what causes are important to him, and he’ll talk about helping his Mom’s native country, Haiti, recover from recent natural disasters. Or empowering nations in Africa so they don’t have to depend on outside help.
Given Cameron’s background, it should come as no surprise that education is the focus of many his efforts.
“I try to go to different schools and talk to kids as much as I possibly can to let them know to fulfill their potential,” he said. “Whatever their potential may be, it might be one day to be in the NFL or to be a CEO, or even if their potential is to be a janitor – be the best at whatever you can be in life and make the most of it. Those are some of the things that definitely stick with me.”
On the field, Cameron was originally signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent, before catching on with the Browns. He’s already talked to Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. New defensive coordinator Billy Davis is familiar with Cameron, having spent last season as the Browns’ linebackers coach.
Asked to give a self scouting report, Cameron said, “Being versatile, and being able to move for someone my size, are my two biggest strengths.”
Now with his third team in two years, Cameron is hoping to make a lasting impression on the field and find new opportunities off of it.
“It’s just a new area to hopefully work with different non-profits, different organizations and different people,” he said.
“It’s kind of been a blessing to jump around the NFL a little bit because you meet so many great people who all stand for the same things. And now, through this Web site, giving them a venue to learn more, or even express their own words.”