Dunwoody Wildcat defensive end Steven Camara was just 13 years old when he started having pain in his side and spent three days sick with a fever.
A trip to the doctor revealed the young football player had a tumor under his left lung and was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma.
Four years later and after three and a half years of chemotherapy treatments Camara did the improbable by signing a college football scholarship with Division III Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Centre is a member of the Southern Athletic Association.
“Signing day is a life changing moment for most families as their children get scholarships to continue their educations,” said Dunwoody head football coach Jim Showfety. “For Steven that life changing moment was four years ago and today is another great step forward.”
The road to recovery was not easy as Camara spent about two months in a hospital bed following surgery and the beginning of what would be three and a half years of chemo treatments.
“When I left the hospital I was told no physical activity for six to eight months,” said Camara. “I could barely walk, climb a flight of stairs and could not even do one full pushup. But once that time was up I began to run and work on strength training.”
Camara’s mom was working as a nanny to support her three sons with their family mostly in France when the diagnosis came down.
“It was out of the blue and completely changed our lives,” said Sophie Campbell. “If it weren’t for some very good friends and the family I worked for I don’t know how we would have made it.”
Beginning his sophomore year Camara began to work out with the team, but was still not at top strength due to the continuing chemo.
“He was always on the go and there were times he would go for a treatment and want to go back for football practice,” said Campbell. “At times I would just have to say, no, you can’t do that today.”
The summer of Camara’s junior year he felt his strength building and in September 2011 he completed his chemo treatments and was clear of the cancer. He played junior varsity from that point on and also played in one varsity game.
Camara, at 6-2 and 225 pounds, started all 10 games as a senior at defensive end for the Wildcats. He finished as the sixth leading tackler on the team with 30 tackles including a ½ sack and one tackle for a loss.
“Steven is a prime example of perseverance, commitment and overcoming adversity,” said Showfety. “Look at where he’s been and what he’s done. His future is very bright because he has room for improvement, room to grow to get bigger and stronger. He can be dangerous on the football field as he moves ahead.”
Through all of his treatments and working to get back onto the football field he also maintained a 3.3 grade point average that helped him get the scholarship to Centre.
“I have three children and he is the most focused on what he wants to accomplish,” said Campbell. “He knows what he wants and will do what it takes to get it.”
As 121 other DeKalb County football seniors had big signing parties with auditoriums full of students, family and bands, Camara had a quiet ceremony in the Dunwoody High cafeteria with a few friends from the team, his mother and brother, O’Bryan Conte, a couple of media representatives and his coach. But his story puts him on the stage of life as an example to all those who are fighting illness or other obstacles to reach out for that pen on National Signing Day.
Mark Brock is Information Officer/Athletics Statistician/Web Manager for DeKalb County Schools Athletics/East DeKalb Campus