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For a guy who has gained the starting placekicker job at Oregon, lost it, and then gained it once again, Camden Lewis talks with more nonchalance than you’d probably expect.
He’s seen some of the lowest lows that you can imagine on a football field, and also some of the highest highs. He’s missed multiple extra points and field goals in a single game, drawing boos from the crowd. He’s also drilled a game-winner to defeat the Washington State Cougars in 2019.
After missing his first career attempt with the Ducks, and making just two of his first five tries, Lewis knows the lows that can come with being a field goal kicker. Now, in 2021, after briefly losing his job to Henry Katleman and fighting hard to take it back, he is also experiencing the highs once again.
“You just can’t give up, you know, you can’t ever just give in,” Lewis said when talking to the media for the first time his season on Wednesday. “I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I can do and I really just came down to believing myself and believing my abilities.”
Heading into this season, it was believed that Oregon finally had a kicker who was worth something. He went 4-for-4 in 2020 and finally spurred some confidence in the fan base. His name was Henry Katleman. Earlier in the year, head coach Mario Cristobal said that Katleman did hold the starting job heading into fall camp, but it was Camden that went and took it from him in the end through his hard work and ultimate success on the field.
“He looked good enough from practice previously to start, but it was close,” Cristobal said. “This past year, his practice reps and what he accomplished pushed ahead to the point where even though there was a guy that started at the end of the season, it was overwhelming evidence that he had to be the starter. You’ve got to believe in and trust your eyes, regardless of the noise of perception, that doesn’t mean anything. The guy proved it and then come game time, he’s done it, thus far, knowing that hey, that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what’s got to look like.”
So far this season, Lewis is perfect in a small sample size. He is 3-for-3 on field goals, and 15-for-15 on extra points. That is a marked improvement from years past when he was 1-for-4 on FGs in 2020, and 9-for-14 in 2019.
While it’s a nice story about a comeback, there were definitely hard times sprinkled in there. Rarely was it hard to find hate for Camden on social media platforms, especially Twitter. Being a place-kicker is often a lonely and isolated position, where you shoulder all of the blame for your misses, and very little of the success for your triumphs. For Lewis, facing that criticism was important in his growth.
“It really did teach me a lot because you need to be able to accept criticism, no matter what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s not just kickers that get criticism. So, I do delete social media, obviously because I just think that’s toxic, but you just have to listen to the people’s opinions who matter. Like people are gonna say things no matter what happens, so why bother listening to it, why does it matter? I care about what my parents think, I care about what my friends think. I don’t care what about a bunch of people on Twitter who criticize every little detail think, you know? They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Those same people who were quick to throw stones from the cheap seats are now enjoying the resurgence of No. 49. When he lost the job, he could have transferred, he could have quit, or he could have sulked. Instead, he put his head down and worked harder. As he rationalized it on Wednesday: “I don’t want to leave. I made a commitment and I want to stick through and I’m very confident in myself and I know what I could do.”
While he has been perfect thus far in the season, it’s unfair to expect that standard going forward. There will be missed kicks, or shanked extra points —that’s just the nature of the game. Even the best in the business are prone to pull one every now and again, but they bounce back. The challenge for Lewis is having a short memory, and not getting bogged down in the results once again.
“Because you go through some rough things on the field, you start to kind of forget what you’re capable of,” Lewis said. “You have a couple of bad games and a couple of bad practices and it’s like, it’s almost like you forget how to do what you do every day.”
Luckily, the third-year sophomore has felt the lows of getting benched and worked his way back into the starting role. He knows that it will be his name that is called when the Ducks are in a pinch and need three points put on the board. That responsibility lays on his shoulders, and nobody can take it from him unless he gives it up. He is Oregon’s man until further notice.
Many Duck fans were a bit disconcerted at that news when it officially came out ahead of the season, but Camden Lewis doesn’t care.
He just wants to do his job, and he’s confident in his ability to find success in the end.