By VICKIE McCORMICK LEWIS
Language Arts, Portal High School
Picture this. The place — Portal High School gymnasium. Spectators are ecstatic, the atmosphere is electric and Cam Sheffield, Portal Panther’s team center, is making history.
Cameron Corley Sheffield is the youngest of five children born to Frank and Inez Sheffield. Known for his respectful yet competitive spirit, classmates knew as early as his days at Portal Elementary School that defeat was not an option. This 2005 Portal High School graduate played to win.
Sheffield’s mother, Inez Sheffield, and his sister, Santrissa were always in the stands.
“It’s important for parents to support their children’s activities, so I made it a point to be at all of his sporting events,” Inez Sheffield said. “My husband, Frank Sheffield, traveled for his company, so he was not always able to attend, but from flag football and throughout his professional career, Cam always had his family’s support.”
Portal Head basketball coach Jeff Brannen remembers Sheffield well.
“Cam only played basketball until his 11th grade year. He was a quiet kid who had a great attitude. He was very coachable and good leader. Furthermore, he is the only player I’ve ever coached who had over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds,” he said.
From the looks of it, there was nowhere to go but up — for more points, rebounds and a promising career playing his favorite sport. However, there are those who saw things differently.
“The only problem I had with Cam during my tenure at Portal High School,” said former head football coach Cassius Osborn, “was convincing this humble, young athlete that football was his ticket, not basketball. Every summer he would go to Florida and refuse to give football a second thought. When he finally took a serious look at football, one success led to another.”
Football wins out
Impressed by Sheffield’s physical maturation over the summers, lifelong friend Sanchez Rock made his case.
“Listen Cam, you’re a great basketball player, but you’re still too short to be a center for the NBA. You may as well come play football with us,” he coaxed.
Sheffield believes he could have earned a basketball scholarship, but heeded the call and promptly demonstrated his athletic aptitude by earning a position on the Portal Panthers second team his sophomore year and first team junior year.
“I’m a tough competitor. I grew up training and working out with my cousin Terry Reeve," Sheffield said. “When he transferred to Statesboro High, I soon formed a bond with Sanchez Rock, Ridge Hagans and Darian Oglesby. We followed a workout regimen that would make us bigger, stronger and faster. Coach Osborn had developed that personal relationship with us and recognized our strengths, but we were a great inspiration to one another.”
“Cam has always been mentally grounded and never lost himself in the game,” Rock said. “He’s been a close friend since the days he won races against me in kindergarten. After our Friday night games, we didn’t go to parties; we went home and watched ourselves to see what we could do better the next time. He made us all want to be better players.”
Under the leadership of head coach Pat Collins during his senior year, Sheffield continued to excel and caught the eye of college recruiters, who offered him a full scholarship to Troy University, where he played defensive end all four years.
“I weighed 225 pounds when I arrived at Troy,” Sheffield said. “Coach Collins had provided me with a weight gain recipe. If I could do it again, I would have maintained healthier eating habits. My body wasn’t quite ready for the intense conditioning routine, but I got with the program fairly quickly.”
Drafted to the NFL
He went to the Senior Bowl his senior year and then to the combine. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft. While playing two years with the Chiefs, he recalls the irony of being teammates with players he’d known from high school: Statesboro High School’s Justin Houston and McIntosh County’s Allen Bailey.
As a result of an injury sustained during the preseason, Sheffield missed the 2010 NFL season. He signed on with the Dallas Cowboys in 2013, but injuries again prevented him from playing. By 2014, Sheffield had secured a position in the starting lineup with professional Canadian football team, the Edmonton Eskimos, but a concussion prevented him from playing more than nine games.
Sheffield’s competitive spirit wouldn’t allow him to sit still. He was picked up by another Canadian professional team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but concussions again interfered with his time on the field. In spite of the physical set-backs that have restricted a promising career, Sheffield still harbors a burning desire to compete on the field.
However, when faced with the option of choosing family or football, this patriarch followed his heart and not his dream.
Sheffield is happily married to Chontia Sheffield, middle school physical education teacher and high school track coach. The family resides in West Point, Georgia, and are the proud parents of two daughters, Corley and Callen Sheffield. His oldest daughter, Camryn, lives in Statesboro.
“Family time is important to me. My middle daughter, age 6, plays basketball for the recreation league. My wife and I are excited to provide our professional expertise, so she’ll enjoy and understand the game,” he said.
Sheffield admits that although he no longer wears the NFL’s Kansas City Chief No. 55 jersey, he is and will always be a Chiefs fan. And as Portal High School students travel the halls of his alma mater, the display case that holds Sheffield’s red and white retired jersey is a reminder that they’re walking in the footsteps of a giant who put in the work to make his dream a reality.