Everyone in the SE Michigan soccer community knows the name Knox Cameron. After an illustrious career at Michigan, the Jamaican born Cameron found himself working up the ranks of the soccer pyramid with short stints at the Brooklyn Knights (USL) and the Michigan Bucks (PDL) before eventually landing a professional contract with the Columbus Crew of the MLS.
Cameron’s career in soccer hasn’t been limited to the pitch, after his stop in Columbus he continued playing (including 2 seasons with NPSL rival Detroit City FC). As the Director of Saline FC (formerly Saline Area Soccer Association) over the past four years, Cameron has helped grow the game through the youth club platform and continues to make an impact by helping young players fall in love with the game that has given him so much.
In late 2014, just after Cameron’s stretch with DCFC, he was approached with an opportunity to invest in an up and coming club, AFC Ann Arbor. Cameron didn’t shy away from the opportunity but instead found it was the perfect platform to transition into the next part of his career in the game.
In the club’s first two seasons, Cameron slowly transitioned from player to overseeing player development, where he played an integral role in the development of the club’s overall talent, spearheading the coaching search that helped land current Sporting Director, Eric Rudland.
The transition on the pitch wasn’t the only change Cameron implemented in his life. In 2015, he began his MBA at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, an experience he says is, “much different this time around.” But no bigger change came about than the birth of his son, Andrew Patrick Cameron, this past summer.
As priorities have shuffled over the past couple of years for Cameron, watching him gracefully develop and transition from the star on the pitch to the front office mover and shaker has been astounding.
For this week’s installment of Mighty Oak Monday, we sat down with Knox to learn more about the transition he’s made the last couple of years.
AFC: The 2016 AFC Ann Arbor season began with the inaugural Saline Showcase, a game where you ended up heading in the game winning goal. What was that experience like for you?
Knox: The Saline Showcase was very special for a number of reasons. Certainly it was the beginning of the AFC Ann Arbor season which is a highlight within itself, but to have Saline FC and the entire community host the game proved to be that much better. Having the opportunity to play and score in front of so many familiar faces was a dream. Whenever I play, my hope is that I am able to contribute to the team in the form of goals, so I was happy to complete that objective. It was also great to share the field with Kevin Taylor and Leigh Rumbold. We have an amazing team of coaches but these two guys are an integral part of executing the vision I have for Saline FC. It was great to share that moment with them and have our kids see us all play.
AFC: On top of your career at DTE Energy, your commitments to Saline FC and pursuing your MBA at U of M, you managed to become a Dad this summer. What has changed about you most after becoming a Dad? How has becoming a Dad impacted you overall?
Knox: I never thought I would be sleeping less than I already did! Certainly I don’t think anyone can plan for parenthood but my wife and I were as prepared as we were ever going to be when our son was born. Outside of the lack of sleep, the impacts have been incredibly positive and life changing. I feel a deeper sense of purpose and I am even more inspired to make an impact each day. Parenthood has given me greater perspective on life; I reflect on the sacrifices my parents made to allow me to chase my dreams and I ultimately want the same for Drew. I am better in all phases of my life because the level of responsibility and accountability that comes with being a parent.
AFC: What are your goals with AFC Ann Arbor and the game of football overall?
Knox: At this level of play, winning is paramount. I would like AFC Ann Arbor to be champions of the NPSL, this is not a lofty goal but rather a very realistic one. I think offering a winning product will help with a lot of the downstream impacts such as the acquisition of new supporters and growing our presence with the Ann Arbor sporting footprint. I would also like for our brand (players included) to embody a lot of the great things within city of Ann Arbor – diversity, intelligence, efficiency, and honesty. Football has meant everything to me and I could not have developed as a person without the experiences it has provided. There is no greater satisfaction than giving and I would like to use the knowledge I have attained to help develop the next generation of talented American players. The work being done at Saline FC allows me to impact the younger demographic, while at AFC Ann Arbor, I am in a position to help the aspiring professionals get to the next level.
AFC: As a former student-athlete at Michigan, we know you bleed Maize and Blue. As you pursue your MBA at Ross, what does it mean to you to be a Wolverine as a grad student?
Knox: Well first I would like to say that I am much more of student now than I was thenJ. What is great about Michigan, whether you are a student-athlete or a Ross MBA, is the desire to be a leader and be the best. I know it sounds cliché but it is very true. As a student-athlete, everyone came into the university great but still wanted to push their bounds. The Ross MBA experience is no different. I am doing wonderful things and trying to make a positive impact, but so is every one of my other classmates. I marvel at some of things people have done, are doing or will aspire to do in the future. We all want to lead, grow and be the very best at whatever we are doing. I love everything about the experience because I am learning from great people and I am being challenged to compete daily. I am happy that I can leverage both my athletic and business experiences because they much mirror each other.
AFC: Where is Knox Cameron in 5 years?
Knox: In the physical sense I will most likely still be close to the Ann Arbor area. Natalie grew up close by so having her family’s support has been a blessing, particularly helping out with Drew. I also have a great network of friends and colleagues which would make leaving very difficult. Outside of location, I want to be 5 years wiser and be poised to make an impact on as many lives as possible. Ironically it was about 5 years ago when I took a hard look at myself, because I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough to maximize my potential. I had to grow in a lot of areas individually before progressing to this phase of my life. All of the things I am currently involved with are a direct result of that soul searching exercise and I couldn’t be happier with the result. As I look forward, I will have completed business school and I want to take the learnings and experience to be a better leader. I have a burning desire to extend my reach as far as possible and the work that I am doing now is preparing me to do so.
AFC: Anything else you'd like to add?
Knox: I am excited about the club’s future as I think we have an amazing group of owners helping to steer the ship. Thank you for the opportunity to express a few things about my life and my aspirations. Ultimately anything in life can be accomplished if you have the 3 H’s working in concert: Hard work, Honesty, Humility.