The upcoming mantra for Buck James’s 2017 Bryant Hornets squad could be best described in two words: Unfinished business. On-the-field leadership will play a big role as the Hornets look to start the season considered among the state’s best and one of the favorites to win a state championship.
One of those players the Hornets will look to is senior safety Cameron Vail. A three-year starter who transferred to Bryant from Fayetteville, Vail says the biggest change for him today comes down to the lessons learned through the years.
“Confidence – that’s been the biggest difference,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to play with so many talented guys for three years. As I’ve gotten better, I’m even more confident in my approach on the field.
“When I started playing as a sophomore, it was about not messing up in front of everyone,” he added. “When you play safety and mess up, the quarterback will throw over your head. Everybody sees that. Now, I don’t worry about that as much because I’m more confident in my job. I can help others focus on their jobs and where they need to be.”
For his career thus far, MaxPreps lists Cameron with 28 solo tackles, and four deflected passes. He credits his success to the support of coaches, friends, and family. He also says his faith plays a major role in guiding his life.
“I give all the glory to God in everything I can do,” he said. “There’s no way I would have any of the success, athletic ability or potential without His blessings. None of this is by my doing. All credit goes to Him.”
Among his other inspirations, Cameron says he enjoys watching and learning from the best players, especially those in the NFL. “My favorite NFL team is the Seattle Seahawks because of their defensive backs called the “Legion of Boom.” Everyone likes seeing a defensive back deliver a hit, and they’re known as the best. It makes a game exciting.”
When asked to break down the Hornet defense, he says it’s an absolute team effort. “We don’t have one player on the defensive side of the football who’s ever ok with losing or not giving his best,” he said. “From the players and coaches, across the board, we come in with the focus of doing our job toward helping pick up the win. We think that’s put us in a good position to compete all year.”
We have a big strong defense of line,” Coach James added. “We have a great set of linebackers and a second safety that plays right beside Cameron who is also a three-year starter. We’ve got two corners on both sides who were solid players. I think most good players like Cameron are strengthened by having a good supporting cast around them, especially on defense.”
Cameron also points to Coach James and the attitude of discipline and winning he’s brought to the Hornet program. “I love playing for this coaching staff at Bryant,” he said. “Coach James has put together a great set of position coaches and coordinators. They have pushed us hard, and I know we would not be where we are today if not for his and their leadership.”
In addition to the coaching staff, teammates and studying the game’s best players, Cameron also enjoys receiving pointers and talking winning strategies with his stepfather and current Bauxite head coach Daryl Patton.
“I’m very proud of him. I’ve seen him grow up over the past six years, and I know how hard he works to have gotten where he is today,” Coach Patton said. “He’s a part of a great team, and I’m very excited to see the season Bryant will have.”
What comes after the season and graduation for Cameron is anyone’s guess. He’s being looked at by a number of Division-I schools, but don’t ask him about it. His focus is somewhere else.
“It’s exciting to hear people say I have the ability to play on a higher level, but if we don’t play well as a team this year, then all of the other hype doesn’t matter.”