National Signing Day: Middie linebacker finds right ‘opportunity’ at Cincinnati

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Cameron Junior felt at home with the University of Cincinnati football program. Now, the Middletown High School linebacker is excited to officially join the Bearcats family.

Almost two months after committing to Cincinnati, Junior inked his national letter of intent Wednesday with the start of the early signing period.

Junior, a three-star recruit according to, was one of a handful of area football players putting pen to paper on their college commitments, including Hamilton athlete Malik Verdon (Iowa State), Lakota West defensive linemen Andre Proffitt (Akron) and Aneesh Vyas (Bucknell), Fairfield offensive lineman Ethan Tyla (Southern Illinois) and athlete Jaydan Mayes (U.S. Military Academy) and Ross offensive lineman Kaden Rogers (Ohio University).

“It means a lot to me,” Junior said. “It feels great. I’m grateful to get the opportunity to play at the next level and they are really trying to send me to the next level beyond that. They want to help me get to the NFL. They are trying to get me an education and experience to get to the next level, and I’m happy for the opportunity.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound outside linebacker was considering Pittsburgh or West Virginia earlier this year. However, Cincinnati kept in constant contact trying to convince him to choose the Bearcats.

UC had been the first to offer him last fall. Eventually, the “love” he felt from the program was so overwhelming the decision became easy. Junior led the Middies with 68 tackles and one sack in seven games this season and had 88 tackles, four sacks and five forced fumbles in 2019.

“A lot played into my decision – family, friends, school, just feeling loved there,” Junior said. “I was honored to get the chance to play there, being from Middletown and that being local. I was ready to go to a different school and they brought me their way. It’s a big opportunity. I love the coaches, the players there and future players. I don’t need to go somewhere new to meet new people. It’s already a family, and I feel a part of it.”

Junior received some encouragement from other UC commits like Colerain defensive tackle Dontay Corleone and Princeton safety Leroy Bowers. Middletown graduate Cole Smith is a junior kicker for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati’s program sells itself a little more easily these days. The undefeated Bearcats are ninth in the College Football Playoff rankings and will be playing for the American Athletic Conference Championship Saturday at home against Tulsa.

Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Marcus Freeman is one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, which annually honors college football’s top assistant coach. Freeman recruited Junior.

“He’s going to teach me a lot,” said Junior, noting he wants to represent Middletown well following in the footsteps of great players like Cris Carter, Jalen Marshall and his own brother, Kyle Junior, who played at Bowling Green. “Every day he was reaching out, ‘Hometown hero, gonna do big things.’ Those words meant a lot to hear.”

Meanwhile on the other side of Butler County, Verdon finalized his recruitment process, which originally had him staying local as well.

Verdon, a wide receiver, quarterback and safety for the Big Blue, had committed to Miami this summer but de-committed Nov. 12 after some Power 5 conference teams started coming after him. He gave a verbal agreement to Iowa State on Nov. 14.

“What changed my mind was the culture around Iowa State and just wanting to play at highest level I could,” Verdon said. “I wanted to be able to showcase my talent with a great team and great culture around it. I felt like it was a family and a safe environment. There’s not much going on out there, so there’s not much to distract me from my work and school.”

Hamilton rarely took Verdon off the field, and he showed off his athleticism all the while. He rushed for 363 yards and five touchdowns, caught four passes for 80 yards and two more scores and finished with 38 tackles and two interceptions on defense. Both he and Junior were first-team All-Greater Miami Conference picks.

Verdon was recruited as a safety. He and his mom went out to watch the Nov. 7 game against Baylor, which the Cyclones won 38-31, and Verdon said it was “an amazing experience.” Iowa State will play Oklahoma for the Big 12 title on Saturday and he now looks forward to trying to make an impact on the program in the future.

“It felt a lot more real (signing),” Verdon said. “It made me feel --- I don’t know, just joy. I was happy and excited. I can’t wait to get up there and start a whole new chapter in my life.”

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