The silver lining in a busted knee
Tigard grad and UO soccer player Jenny Cameron re-connects with the game
EUGENE - It wasn't anything unusual.
It was something Jenny Cameron had done hundreds of times before.
It was spring of 2005 and Cameron, a 2004 Tigard High School graduate, was taking part in practice with the University of Oregon women's soccer team. It was her first practice after coming back from an ankle injury.
Cameron, and another Duck player, each launched themselves skyward to try and get a head on the soccer ball. There was some pushing in midair, and Cameron landed awkwardly. She said she didn't hear anything, but, everyone else told her they heard a pop - a pop coming from Cameron's right knee.
The news wasn't good. It turned out to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It was the first major injury that Cameron, who was a three-sport star in her Tigard days, had ever suffered.
In fact, when it comes to soccer, Cameron says it might be the best thing that ever happened to her.
'I know it sounds strange, but if I had to do it all over again, I don't think I'd change a thing,' Cameron said. 'Everything happens for a reason.'
Whether that is the case or not, Cameron says that, because of the injury, she now has a greater appreciation for the sport she loves.
'I'll never take soccer for granted again,' she said. 'It sounds weird, but I missed the smell of grass on cleats - I missed the smell of soccer.
'I've always loved soccer. But, when something is taken away from you so abruptly, you learn how much you really love it. I don't worry about the little things now. This has been a good thing.'
A good thing, yes, but not easy.
Cameron, in her senior year at Tigard, was the Pacific-9 Conference girls soccer Player of the Year and a first-team Class 4A All-State pick. She also helped the Tiger girls basketball team reach the state playoffs and qualified for the state track and field championships in the long jump.
From there, it was on to Oregon. As a freshman, she started nine matches in the midfield for the Ducks.
Then came that spring practice, and the injury that Cameron said was the first serious injury of her life.
'That was such a hard experience,' she said. 'I didn't know what to do.'
The University of Oregon athletic training staff took care of that. Cameron began pre-habilitation of her knee before surgery. Then, three days after surgery, rehabilitation began.
Three months later, she was running on the knee. But, the bad news was, she was going to have to sit out the 2005 season. It would be her first soccer-less fall in a long, long time.
'It was definitely weird, not playing soccer,' Cameron said. 'And it was hard watching the team play.'
But she was still part of the team.
'I did everything the team did,' she said. 'I went to all the practices, I went to the matches, and I also did the rehabilitation and put in long hours in the training room.'
A lot of hours, a lot of hard work - all with the goal of getting back on the field as soon as possible.
Cameron was back on the field, wearing a brace around her right knee, for the Ducks in their four-match spring season.
'That was a long season, I wasn't 100 percent,' Cameron said. 'I had some tendonitis in the knee right after I came back, and it was hard to tell how strong my knee was.
'I hope and pray to be 100 percent again. I feel amazing now. I know that one day, I'll be there.'
She's hoping that will happen this fall.
'I'm so excited for this season - more than ever before,' she said. 'We report August 7. I have a countdown on the light board in my room. I just love fall camp. I love daily doubles. Oh my gosh, I can't put it into words.'
Cameron, in her redshirt sophomore season with the Ducks, could be back in the midfield, or she could end up playing in the central defense, alongside her best friend on the team, Dylann Tharp, who is the daughter of ESPN reporter Shelley Smith.
'That would be wild if we were playing back there together,' Cameron said. 'But I don't care where I play. They can put me at goalie. I just want to be out there again. I can't wait for our first game.'
That first game will be Aug. 25, when the Ducks host Long Beach State at 7:30 p.m. There are other big games on the schedule, including an Oct. 1 meeting with the national champion Portland Pilots in a match to be played at Merlo Field.
'I'm really looking forward to that one,' Cameron said with a smile.
Cameron, a psychology major and University of Oregon junior, academically, has a had a busy summer leading up to the fall soccer season.
She's been taking a pair of classes, working out with the Ducks' strength and conditioning coach and she's also been a coach and counselor at the University of Oregon's summer soccer camps.
'That's definitely been fun,' she said. 'My dad (Dale Cameron) wanted me to get into it. He encouraged me to do it. It's been fun to be a mentor.'
Everything happening seems to have a bit more meaning for the former Tiger standout.
'Everything has been put in perspective,' Cameron said. 'Now, I'm really excited for practice. I'm excited to just get out and run. It means a lot to me.'
Yes, sometimes, as weird as it sounds, a major knee injury jut might be a good thing.