For many college seniors, preparing for finals, securing future employment and spending time with friends — maximizing the college experience — are among their top priorities.
There’s no question Cameron Haney, a senior on Utah State’s football team, also cares about all of those things. Nevertheless, Haney has a bigger, more transcendent purpose on the forefront of his mind.
You see, Haney is the founder of a non-profit organization based out of his home city of Los Angeles.
“We’re here to guide inner-city children, so basically just giving them tools and resources so they can exploit their talents,” Haney said.
It’s this kind of selfless attitude and willingness to help others that has endeared Haney to USU cornerbacks coach Mark Orphey.
“I just found out about (his non-profit) probably a couple of months ago, and when he told me, I was like, ‘man, let me know anything I need to do to help you because I think that’s awesome,’ especially coming from where he’s from,” Orphey said. “And he doesn’t talk about the NFL, he talks about actually wanting to make a difference outside of football, and I think that’s the most important thing that stood out to me about Cam. He’s a really mature kid. I mean, he’s been here going on five years now, and I’m just impressed and I admire him a lot.”
Truth be told, Haney aspires to play in the NFL, but “If that doesn’t work out I think I’m going to get into college coaching and coach football.” Regardless of what happens with football, the senior cornerback plans on being involved in the community he resides in, particularly with the objective of helping out children.
Haney also ultimately aims to “have a timeless effect on people.”
“Everything I do every day, all of my drills, my work ethic, my character, I want it to be timeless,” Haney explained. “I want everybody to remember me, I want my teammates I’m with now that are younger to look up to me, and just continue to grow as a person.”
Along the way, Haney hopes to help lead the Aggies to their first ever Mountain West championship. USU got off to a nice start in that regard by beating perennial MW power San Diego State, 23-17, on the road last Saturday.
The showdown with the Aztecs was a huge deal to Haney, who grew up only about 120 miles away from San Diego. Haney started for the Aggies, made four solo tackles and broke up a game-high three passes.
“Yeah, it meant a lot,” Haney said. “My family was here. There were like 40 people and there were some of my family members that had never seen me play football, so I just had a lot of energy and juice, and it was great. That was one of my best games that I’ve probably ever had in my life.”
The Aggies were certainly glad to have Haney back after he missed the first two games while nursing a pulled leg muscle. No. 6 warmed up before USU’s home opener against Stony Brook on Sept. 7, but did not play.
USU had its first bye week of the season before traveling to the Golden State for its conference opener. Could Haney have played in Week 3 had the bye week not fallen there?
“Yeah, I would have been ready to go, but I think that (bye) week actually just gave me a extra boost,” he said. “But I would have been ready to go if we had played that bye week.”
Having to miss the first two games of his senior year was challenging, but Haney maintained a positive attitude through his rehab.
“It hurt (missing those games), but I trust my corners and I trust my defense, so it wasn’t really a problem for me not to be on the field because we’ve got good guys everywhere and good talent,” Haney said. “So, with me not being out there, it doesn’t mean anything. We’re still going to go out there and play hard and get the job done.”
Haney possesses the type of mindset that Orphey thoroughly enjoys working with and being around.
“He’s been a nice treat (coaching him),” Orphey said. “One thing about him is he has a great attitude every day, whether he’s practicing or he’s out (with an injury). And when he’s not getting reps, he’s always on the sidelines coaching those guys up. ... He’s the guy that kind of fits in with everybody, and that’s what I admire about him the most. He’s like a chameleon and I think that’s huge.”
Orphey also appreciates the much-needed senior leadership Haney brings to a relatively young group of Aggie corners. This is No. 6’s fifth year with the program as he redshirted when he first arrived in Cache Valley in 2015.
“We’re a young team and don’t have a lot of older guys back there (in the secondary), and him being one of those older guys, he kind of gives those guys advice here and there and he’s a football-savvy guy, which is something you can’t coach,” Orphey said.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has been an impact performer during his time in Logan. In his first three seasons, Haney played in 37 of 38 games and made 10 starts.
Despite only starting once last season, Haney still managed to rank second on the team in passes broken up with seven. No. 6 started eight games in 2017 and recorded six PBUs, which also ranked second on the squad. Additionally, he chipped in with a combined 57 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, as a sophomore and junior.
Haney was heavily recruited as a standout defensive back at Cathedral High School. The first-team all-state corner received scholarships offers from Washington, Washington State and Arizona State, plus several Mountain West offers, including from Boise State.
Haney, who broke up or intercepted an impressive 29 passes as a prep senior, strongly considered accepting offers from each of the Pac-12 Conference programs before deciding on Utah State.
Why did Haney ultimately chose USU over the bigger programs?
“Well, what captured my eye was basically the family atmosphere, the fan base, the defense and basically my recruiter at the time ... Kendrick Shaver,” said Haney, who is on track to graduate with a degree in integrated studies this December. “He basically just guided me and took me in under his wing. Shoot, in high school I had a lot of big offers, but I didn’t really see all of the glitz and glamour because I’m from Los Angeles, so I already kind of lived in the limelight. But I just wanted a place where I could come and work and just play ball, so I chose here.”
Moving to Cache Valley was a far cry from life in a big city like Los Angeles, but it was an adjustment Haney welcomed.
“Yeah (it was), kind of (tough), but kind of not, because I went to an all-boys school in Los Angeles, and I was kind of isolated outside of the city,” said Haney, who rushed for 350 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries as a prep senior, and was also a sprinter on Cathedral’s track & field team. “So, I already went through that whole new atmosphere of not knowing anybody and being around boys all day, and just playing football. And so when I got here, it was kind of the same attitude that I brought, so I just loved it. I just embraced it and I love the city (of Logan).”
The well-rounded Haney enjoys doing several things in his free time, including cooking, drawing, reading and keeping up with the stock market. The senior also has a good sense of humor, Orphey asserted.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, one thing is for certain: Orphey will relish his time coaching and being around Haney.
“His work ethic is second to none,” Orphey said. “He’s a kid where if he’s hurt, you won’t know because he won’t tell you. ... To me, that’s the biggest reason as to why I want to make sure I put these guys in the best position because of kids like Cam that show up to work every day and know that, ‘hey, this might be my last go-around, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got,’ — one leg, two legs, no legs, so I love that about that kid.”