National Signing Day is an exciting day for high school football players around the country. But the day was more exciting for Dunwoody’s Steven Camara because it was a day that almost did not come for him.
In May 2008, Camara was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. Four years later, the cancer-free defensive end was sitting between his mother, Sophie Campbell, and younger brother, O’Bryan Conte, as he signed his letter of intent to play college football at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
“I’m more excited than any man could be,” he said.
Camara was 13 years old when he started feeling pain in his side. After suffering from a fever for three days, he went to a doctor who discovered a cancerous tumor under his lung.
After surgery, Camara had to sit out football for three years as he went through chemotherapy treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
“[Not playing football] was really hard,” he said. “Whenever I would watch it I would want to be out there with my teammates. I would do whatever I could, even if that meant being on the sidelines.”
“I always felt weak or sick all the time,” he said. “But somehow I always found the courage to push myself and find the will to do what I wanted to do.”
Camara was determined to get back on the football field. In the 10th grade, he began to work out with the team, but was still not at top strength because of the chemo treatments.
“It was a bit of a challenge but I took it head on and didn’t let anything get in my way,” he said.
Campbell said her son is the type of person who does not accept the words “you can’t.”
“Whenever you tell him ‘you can’t do this,’ he would go out and do it,” she said.
In his junior year Camara began feeling better and getting stronger. In September 2011 he completed his chemo treatments and was clear of the cancer. He was able to play on the junior varsity team and also in one varsity game.
As a senior, Camara started in all 10 games and finished as the sixth leading tackler on the team with 30 tackles. He also had a half sack and one tackle for a loss.
Dunwoody head coach Jim Showfety said Camara was a very solid player last season and a prime example of perseverance.
“When you look at what he has been through the last few years and where he is today, I think it is just a real tribute to his character and his determination,” Showfety said. “I’m sure he is going to go off to college and do a great job.”
Campbell said she still can’t believe how far along her son has come.
“He has been through a lot,” she said. “He almost died. God was looking out for him.”
Camara, who has a 3.3 GPA, said he chose to attend Centre College because he feels that it is a school where he can fit in. He has high expectations for the upcoming season.
“I expect for great things to come out of me and I feel the people around me have high hopes,” he said. “They want to win a ring and if I can contribute to that then that’s what I’ll do.”