Over the past few months, a handful of Portal students have signed on to take their athletic abilities to the college level. Saturday afternoon, one former Panther who took that step four years ago ascended to the professional ranks.
With their fifth-round selection, the Kansas City Chiefs made former Portal standout Cameron Sheffield the 142nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Sheffield’s selection comes after a distinguished career as a Panther, followed by a stint at Troy University where the 6-foot-2, 249-pound defensive end saw immediate playing time and grew to become an anchor of one of the NCAA’s top defensive units.
“It’s extremely exciting and a great honor,” said Sheffield. “It’s also sort of a relief. The last few months have been very hectic with the Senior Bowl, my pro day and preparing for the draft. I’m ready to get back to just preparing to play football.”
Playing football has been Sheffield’s business since high school, and now he’ll get a chance to make it his career.
“I think it was obvious that Cameron had the size and potential to play at a higher level, but it’s more than that,” said Pat Collins, Sheffield’s coach at Portal and currently the head coach at Southeast Bulloch. “He has tremendous character. He was willing to put forth the effort at practice and also worked hard on academics to ensure that he could go to college and give himself a great education along with the opportunity to keep playing football.”
Anyone in the stands could see Sheffield’s talent as a player, but as his coach for two seasons, Collins also got a look at the person that he developed into.
“Cameron is really a great kid,” said Collins. “I give a lot of credit for that to his parents, Frank and Inez. They taught him all of that great character. I have seen a lot of talented players that didn’t pan out for one reason or another, but that isn’t the case with Cam. I figured that he could go as far as he was willing to go, and with him, that’s a long way.”
At home to watch the draft on television, there was no shortage of people helping Sheffield to celebrate his accomplishment.
“(Friday), we had a bunch of family and friends over for a big party,” said Sheffield. “It was great to see a lot of the people who have helped me and been there for me along the way. Today, it was just me and my family sitting at the house. The phone rang and they asked me if I would like to play for the Chiefs, so I told them that I would be happy to.”
It’s hard to believe just how far Sheffield has come.
Now a part of a professional team – with one of the most passionate fan bases – in a major city, it’s a far cry from the halls of Portal, which – with roughly 250 students – is one of the smallest football-playing schools in the state.
But even in the smallest of ponds, the huge talent and determination of Sheffield has helped him get to the biggest of stages.
“I’m grateful for everything I experienced at Portal,” said Sheffield. “I know that we’re just a small school, but it’s not how big or small the place is that you come from, it’s how much you can dedicate yourself to where you want to go.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.