Catawba a comfortable fit for Sexton
By Mike London
Cam Sexton says Catawba won the recruiting battle for his football services mostly because it didn’t push too hard or promise too much.
When he was at Scotland County High in Laurinburg, Sexton was a Super Prep All-America quarterback. He threw for 5,165 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career while competing in the state’s toughest area. His numbers drew attention from big-time programs in the South, and he listened patiently to every recruiting speech ever invented.
Sexton ó Cameron to his mother, but Cam to the rest of the world ó expected to hear another round of hyper, used-car-salesman recruiting pitches after he announced his intention to transfer from North Carolina and explore Division II options for his final year of eligibility. Some promised the world. It was like high school all over again.
Catawba offered a nice surprise.
“From Jump Street, Catawba was a place I thought I might fit, and the more I talked to Coach (Chip) Hester and Coach (Matt) Barrett, the more I felt like they were telling me the truth and not just telling me what I wanted to hear,” said Sexton in a phone interview.
“I expected Catawba to try to recruit me, but they really didn’t. The coaches weren’t overbearing at all. They just kind of laid it all out there and told me what they could do. They told me they’d love to have me. If not, they’d wish me the best wherever.”
The other finalist was North Alabama, which was 12-2 and made the D-II national semifinals in 2008. Terry Bowden, from the famous family, is the new coach at North Alabama, and record-setting quarterback A.J. Milwee just finished an amazing career.
There were a lot of reasons to join North Alabama’s Lions. The distance factor was the lone negative.
Former Catawba linebacker and Salisbury resident Stewart Adams, who made 52 tackles for the Indians in 2005, is also from Scotland County and is a friend of Sexton’s. His role was critical in Sexton’s final answer.
Adams wasn’t nearly as high-profile a transfer as Sexton when he came to Catawba from Appalachian State seeking more playing time his senior year, but he earned a starting role and made a positive impact with his leadership.
“When I first got into the transfer process, I really didn’t know a lot about any of the D-II programs,” Sexton said. “But Stewart is someone I knew would tell me the truth. Unless you’ve been been in a program you really don’t know, but he played there. He said all good things about the school, the program and the coaches.”
Colby McCanna, one of the tight ends, is the only current Catawba player Sexton knows well.
Sexton, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, said he met former Indian QB Brad Roach at a camp once. He is acquainted with former Catawba running back George “Juice” Bell.
Bell, a beast growing up in Fayetteville, transferred to Catawba from Virginia Tech and was stellar in 2007.
Sexton will graduate from UNC with a communications degree in May and begin graduate work at Catawba this fall. He’ll get started with football somewhat earlier.
His schedule won’t permit him to visit Salisbury much until after graduation, but he targets July as a time when he can start working extensively with the coaching staff.
Sexton said he’ll leave UNC on friendly terms and with no regrets even though it was often a bumpy ride in Chapel Hill for the prep phenom.
He redshirted in 2005. In 2006, he competed for playing time with Joe Dailey and threw four touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
In 2007, he all but disappeared from the consciousness of UNC fans and the depth chart and played in one game.
But last fall, with starter T.J. Yates injured and backup Mike Paulus struggling, Sexton rose from third-stringer to season-saver. He was 5-2 as the starter before Yates returned. He threw for 1,261 yards and nine touchdowns. Without him, the Tar Heels may have collapsed. Instead, they played in the Meineke Bowl.
“Everyone asks me if I could go back and do it over where would I go, but I’d still go to Chapel Hill,” Sexton said. “Even in my down times, I was learning so much, and I like to think it built character.
“I’ve got great memories from this past year to carry with me. I’ll always love Carolina, and it’s a very hard place to leave, but sometimes you do what you feel you need to do, and there are things I still want to accomplish in football. Whether I’m playing against Miami or Lenoir-Rhyne, it’s football. It’s still about competing and helping my team be successful.”