Posts Tagged ‘Desert Oasis’

W.G. Ramirez

CamJefferson

Desert Oasis-graduate and former UNLV lineman Cam Jefferson is in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Denver Broncos’ practice squad. PHOTO: Courtesy Cam Jefferson/Snapchat

Cam Jefferson had just finished a stint in the Canadian Football League, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and returned to Las Vegas for the winter.

The former Desert Oasis High School and UNLV offensive lineman hadn’t given the NFL a thought, since the Chicago Bears waived him on Aug. 30 and no other team seemed interested. So he did what many former athletes do when they return to Vegas, he got a job working security at a local nightclub.

That was until his agent called and told him to get on a plane and head to Englewood, Colorado, where the 6-foot-5, 317-pounder had a tryout with the Denver Broncos.

“The following week I got the call that I was being brought in for the practice squad,” said Jefferson, via a phone interview from San Francisco, where the Broncos are preparing for Super Bowl 50. “I was so excited I began calling everyone – my girlfriend, my mom, friends, everyone.”

His dream had come true. He was an NFL player.

Jefferson, who spent the summer with the Chicago Bears after being signed as an undrafted free agent May 3, is still a member of Denver’s practice squad. And while that means he won’t be getting into the biggest game of the NFL season, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t played a pivotal role in helping the AFC champs get to this point.

“I go against players like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller every day,” said Jefferson, who has been with the Broncos since Dec. 8. “It’s really an honor going against these guys and then seeing them ball out on game day. For that I feel like I’m a part of this team every single day.”

Jefferson was born in Cleveland, where his father, William, played for the NFL’s Browns (1989-90). After his father’s professional career ended – he also played for the Los Angeles Raiders and spent time in the CFL and WFL – the Jeffersons relocated and Cam was raised in Southwest Las Vegas, where he attended Sierra Vista High School as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Desert Oasis.

Interestingly, Jefferson starred as a basketball player before even thinking of playing football. He didn’t set foot on a football field until his junior year, when he earned all-Southwest Region honors for the Diamondbacks. It was his father who has always been his biggest inspiration, as he was the main reason he switched to the gridiron his junior year.

“He’s been through it all, and all I can do is try to follow in his footsteps and be even greater than he was,” said Jefferson, who transferred to Arkansas from UNLV for his senior season. “My Pops always told me, football – even in most sports – is mostly mental. If your mental isn’t right in anything you do, especially sports, you can’t accomplish anything. Your mind has to be set.

“These last couple weeks, my Pops has been telling me to enjoy the moment, and everyone has been telling me to enjoy this because nobody gets this opportunity.”

Which is why the younger Jefferson always remained focused upon returning from Arkansas, in Chicago, up in Winnipeg, and back home in Las Vegas – all before landing in the Mile High City.

His mental strength and positive outlook is paying off, as he’s been enjoying the limelight with the Broncos: Snapchatting from Opening Night Media Day and throughout San Francisco, being interviewed by CBSSports.com for a piece on Super Bowl players with tattoos, and simply soaking up the experience leading up to the biggest game of the season.

And even though the “Cam” everyone else tuning into the game will be familiar with will be wearing powder blue and black, igniting Panthers fans with a dab or two, Cam Jefferson is taking pride that he’s helped guys like Ware and Miller, and been involved in meetings on what it means to protect Peyton Manning.

“It always starts in the trenches, no matter what play it is, what down it is, what quarter, what half it is, really, or what game – it all starts on the line,” Jefferson said. “Peyton makes plays because we makes plays. And it doesn’t really matter who it is, the priority of this football team is to execute at the highest level.

“The last couple of months have been crazy. As a football player, you dream of these moments. But to live in them is an entirely different thing. Things have really come full circle for me, because my ultimate goal was to sign a contract. This season has turned out to be a blessing.”

CAM’S PREDICTION: “I can’t give you a score, but we’ll have more points than the other team.”

By W.G. Ramirez

I had a chance to cover the Sunset Regional Division I Girls Golf Championship at Siena Golf Club this past week, for the Las Vegas Review Journal. And while I watched some pretty phenomenal athletes brave a rough course and chilly conditions, I was more impressed by something that had nothing to do with their golf games, yet everything to do with how the game should be played.

Weiderman_Bryant2

Allison Weiderman (left) and Aspen Bryant after the Sunset Region Championship.

There were no Yasiel Puig-like bat flips with golf clubs off a booming tee shot. I didn’t see any LeBron James-like staredowns after a long putt. And I certainly didn’t see any Joseph Fauria-like touchdown dances every time someone new took the lead, or challenged to take over as leader.

What emerged from the final four competitors over the last nine holes was a display of sportsmanship plenty of pro athletes can take a page from.

Cimarron-Memorial’s Aspen Bryant, Desert Oasis’ Allison Weiderman, Bishop Gorman’s Katie DeJesus and Palo Verde’s Allison Ryu were all within striking distance of one another at the turn. Bryant was competing as an individual, while the other competitors were part of their teams vying to earn a berth into next week’s state tournament on Wednesday and Thursday.

The top two teams in the region moved on, while the top five individuals from non-qualifying state teams earned a one-way ticket to Bear’s Best Golf Course.

But as much as each girl wanted to win, they seemingly put their personal wills and wants aside to extend support and praise to their competitors.

“I don’t dislike anybody because they’re playing the same game as me,” Bryant said. “They’re my competition, but it’s not like we’re in contact sports or something. We can still kind of be friendly.”

If anyone had a right to be salty on the back nine, as the sun was descending and the temperatures were dropping, it was the Cimarron senior, who dropped an 11 on the par-4, 10-hole to fall behind Weiderman by three strokes. After all, Bryant was the No. 1 seed based on season averages, and was a mere 3-over par after the front nine.

Instead, any bystander would have thought Bryant was there specifically to cheer her competitors on. The same can be said for Weiderman, the No. 2 seed. Both could be heard throughout the last several holes cheering for one another, not to mention DeJesus and Ryu. Whether it was off the tee box or after a beautifully played long putt by DeJesus on a couple of occasions, the girls’ graciousness was refreshing in a world where athleticism tends to rear its ugly head among competitors.

Don’t get them wrong, as Weiderman pointed out – they each want to win medalist honors.

“Golf is such an individual sport and you want everyone to be making their putts, you want the competition level to be higher, so that you think ‘if they put this in’ you want to put yours in right after them,” Weiderman said. “I just think cheering everyone else on just brings a better environment and everyone wants to do good if they have competitors saying ‘nice putt’ or ‘nice shot.’ ”

And as Desert Oasis coach Ken Gibson pointed out: “They want to win because they play well, not because somebody else plays bad.”

The positive vibes spilt into the “gallery,” which consisted of a couple of parents and coaches from each school, not to mention this amazed reporter who got to see an exciting finish to a regional golf championship. The coaches could be heard yelling “nice putt,” or “good shot,” or “atta girl” throughout the round to all the competitors. Parents knew one another and the golfers, because the girls had been competing against one another during divisional matches all season.

As Bryant’s 11 left her scrambling and challenging DeJesus just to stay near second at times, while both trailed Weiderman, staying positive with the others might have been the trick in keeping a certain poise that allowed her to shoot three pars and one birdie over the final five holes.

“I think when I don’t have any emotions toward it, I do better than if I’m happy when I start (well), or if I’m angry when I do bad,” Bryant said. “If I just don’t do anything, I usually play a lot better because I don’t think about anything but my next shot.”

And yet the one thing she continued to do, even if she stayed quiet while being shuttled from shot to shot, was cheer on her rivals.

Weiderman also stayed focused on her game, since she needed to finish strong for her team in order to get to next week. And she shot beautifully over the first five holes of the back nine, dropping three pars and a birdie.

“Showing no emotion sometimes does you better, so I felt bad and I didn’t really want to say anything,” Weiderman said. “But then I’m thinking ‘here’s my chance’. But I still don’t want her to get an 11.”

Nor did Bryant want her chief competitor to shoot 5-over over two crucial holes, including a 4-over 8 on the par-4 16.

“I truly feel bad when other people do bad, because it could just as easily be me,” Bryant said. “But I do think sometimes that just opens the door more for me. But I never wish bad things happen. I never want somebody’s ball to go into the water. (Because) the next hole it could be me in the water or something.”

When it was all said and done, the girls congratulated one another for a strong finish, and getting the round in before it became completely dark. I mean, they teed off at 12:48 p.m. and the final putt was dropped at 6:19 p.m. Nonetheless, they sat together to sign their scorecards and they converged to the final tote board for the announcements of who was going to state.

And the winners were…

Well, after all that sportsmanship several pro athletes could learn from, does it really matter?