Cameron Browning wants you to doubt him. Finding his home at small schools, Browning makes it his mission to give quarterbacks nightmares and show that his underdogs have bite.
No matter the obstacle or opposition, Browning has a quiet confidence. Show him a bigger, more-heralded opponent, and his team will take them on and take them down.
“Personally, being in an underdog position is the best position to be in because no one expects anything great out of you and when you prove them wrong it is one of the best feelings in the world,” Browning said.
His senior season at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School was his favorite. Ignored or ridiculed coming into the season by their Class-A peers, the Bobcats reached up and bit them. Playing with a roster of fewer than 30 players, the band of brothers won six games against a brutally tough schedule and earned a state playoff berth.
At OLM he learned to relish being on the wrong side of the odds, and that made this past season that much sweeter.
“Being on a team of 26 guys at Mercy and having a multi record-breaking season, going to the playoffs, and just shocking everybody was amazing,” he said. “Nobody thought we were going to have a winning record, let alone make the playoffs.”
An 5’9”, 165 pound cornerback, he piled up 60 tackles and 7 interceptions, along with 350 yards and 4 touchdowns on offense. He was rewarded for his individual work with All-County, All-Region, and All-State honors.
Before embarking on his college journey with the Butler University Bulldogs he made a special detour to suit up for Team USA this summer.
On the recommendation of an opposing coach, Browning was contacted by a scout for the U.S. Under-19 National Team. They liked his tape and brought him out to Northern Arizona University for training camp.
Comprised of 43 players ranging from 16 to 19 years old, the team sought to meld together talent from all across the country into a winner. Under the leadership of head coach Matt Hennessy, from Pawhuska High School in Oklahoma, the strangers came together to dominate between the lines.
“It was amazing,” Browning, the only player on the roster from Georgia, said. “Meeting dudes from everywhere, you see we’re all pretty similar, but seeing differences in how we live and how we talk and the different things that we like to do, it was really, really cool.”
They picked Northern Arizona to get ready because it most closely resembled the high-altitude conditions the players would encounter for the tournament in Mexico City, with its elevation of over 7,000 feet. Practice meant not just learning to play with a whole new set of teammates, but also dealing with the thinner air.
“The first day, I thought I was going to fall out. Everyone was gassed. Even the coaches were gassed,” he said. “The first few days it was really rough, but after a while we got used to it. We weren’t perfectly acclimated to it, but it got a lot easier to do sprints and go through drills and not be tired.”
With just 10 days of practice, the team headed to Mexico City for the International Federation of American Football World Championships. After quickly dispatching Australia 38-0, they faced a team of the top college football players in Mexico. Mexico had been practicing together for three months, and it paid off as they beat the USA 33-6.
“That Mexico team was serious. They’re one of the toughest teams I’ve ever played against,” he said of the game played in front of more than 30,000 screaming fans. “This is the biggest game they’ll ever play, so they were bringing their absolute best.”
After the loss to Mexico, the team rebounded to pound Sweden 61-9 and claim the Bronze Medal, as Canada took home the Gold for the second-straight time in the biennial event.
The highlight of the tournament was the coaches bestowing upon Browning the honor of serving as a team captain and carrying out the American flag.
“That was truly amazing. No matter what team I’m on, I always try to exemplify the attributes of a team captain, so when my coach called out my name I was unbelievably excited,” he said.
Capable of playing on both sides of the ball in high school, he did his best work on defense, catching the eye of schools looking for a shutdown cornerback. Choosing from a number of offers to play at the collegiate level, Browning settled on a rising FBS power in the Butler Bulldogs. Known primarily for their basketball team, he wants to help them make their mark on the gridiron, and they have the culture to make it happen.
“I went up to Butler and immediately I felt like this is a family atmosphere,” he said. “I’m a really big family guy, so even though I knew I wanted to go out of state, having that feeling was really important to me.”
With a major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and his sights set on making big moves when his football career is over, Browning knew that the Indianapolis school had the right blend of sports and academics he needed. Talking to the Bulldog players on his official visit, they reassured him that the coaches understand the importance of hitting the books when not hitting the weights.
“Everything the coaches are doing is to make you better, and that’s not just on the football field,” he said. “I know how important that is because I can’t play football forever, so I know I’ve got to have a good education to back it up.”
The experience of playing on Team USA has Browning chomping at the bit to hit the field with Butler. Few players already have a month of full-contact work under their belt this time of year, and the elevation training has him in shape to hit the ground running.
“I came back, and I was working out and it was like, this is nothing,” he said. “I feel really confident heading into camp.”
Slotted in at cornerback for the Bulldogs, he’s going to do whatever it takes to help his team excel.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it.”
The odds are always long for a true freshman to play much at the college level, but good luck telling Browning he can’t do it. When they kick off their season September 1, Browning will show Youngstown State he’s an underdog that’s got bite.