Cam’Ron Valdez spent his early childhood in the Central Texas town of Cameron, which is how he got his name.
“My mom wanted to name me something different,” the Texas Tech running back said, “so she named me Cam’Ron, coming from Cameron. That’s pretty unique, coming from that small town.”
Alas, Valdez moved in first grade to Rockdale, the neighboring rival in high-school sports 17 miles away. Cameron is home to Cameron Yoe, winner of four UIL football state championships, including three in a row from 2012 through 2014. But Valdez set the school record for career rushing yards at Rockdale, where he ran for 1,175 yards as a varsity sophomore, 1,697 yards as a junior and 1,406 yards as a senior.
He helped Rockdale beat Yoe once in three games during his varsity career.
“That was a real weight on my shoulders,” he said, “playing against all my cousins and friends from when I was younger.”
Now Valdez is beginning his second year in the Texas Tech program, hoping to make a name for himself. With more experienced Tech running backs SaRodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks both having reached the 500-yard mark last season, there appear to be few extra carries for an apprentice.
Valdez, a 5-foot-9, 203-pound redshirt freshman, is willing to bide his time.
“My role this year is to be behind those guys,” he said, “and honestly, when my time comes, be there to make the plays I need to make. I’m looking forward to the season, honestly. I feel like it’s going to be a good year for me.”
He’s on the radar, at least.
“Cam’Ron Valdez had a great jump,” Tech coach Joey McGuire said. “I’m excited about him. He kind of brings a different change of pace (compared to) the two-headed monster.”
Thompson, a 217-pound fifth-year senior, and Brooks, a 223-pound junior, form a solid one-two. But Valdez’s pedigree suggests he’ll be a productive back for the Red Raiders at some point.
Aside from having been a hotly recruited state top-100 prospect, other family members have it big. Valdez is a cousin of former Tech offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark, now starting his seventh season in the NFL, and of former Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook, a Biletnikoff Award winner who spent the past five seasons in the NFL. Clark went to high school at Rockdale, Westbrook at Cameron Yoe.
Valdez offers a different look than Brooks and Thompson.
Asked to describe his style, he said, “I would say more of a hybrid back. I can catch it out of the backfield. I’m real good in open space. Also, making one cut and make it go vertical.”
According to recruiting services, more than two dozen FBS programs, 18 from power-five conferences, offered Valdez a scholarship. Valdez said former Tech running backs coach DeAndre Smith was the difference maker. Smith departed after last season to become running backs coach for the New York Giants.
“He’s really the reason I’m here, our relationship,” Valdez said. “He was one of the realest coaches, I felt, throughout that recruiting period, that could get me where I wanted to be, the next level, and teach me what I needed to know to be a better man.”
Now Valdez is learning from Kenny Perry, McGuire’s choice to replace Smith.
“It was pretty hard,” Valdez said. “It was hard at first, took a toll on me, but coach Perry came in and didn’t miss a beat.”