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USF grieves for ex-safety
Javan Camon's ex-coach and teammates praise his hits and leadership.
By GREG AUMAN
Published February 28, 2007
Javan Camon loved football enough to play it for a pittance, $250 a game, in relative obscurity on the other side of the state.
The former USF safety from Port Charlotte, playing his first game of the season for the host Daytona Beach Thunder of the World Indoor Football League, broke his neck and died Monday night on a helmet-to-helmet collision while making a tackle.
The death left teammates and friends mourning the 25-year-old remembered for his long dreadlocks, big smile and bigger hits.
"He was just a skinny kid who could wipe people out," said defensive back John Miller, a USF teammate for three seasons. "I always told him I wished I could hit like him. Whatever he was doing when it happened, I guarantee he was going full speed."
Camon played five games for the Thunder last season, but his death might be felt more at USF, where he played four seasons and was a co-captain and leading tackler in 2004.
"My heart aches for Javan and his family," USF coach Jim Leavitt said in a statement. "He had a great spirit and a great energy, and he was always fun to be around. The fact that he was elected as a team captain shows how much his teammates respected him."
Camon is the third current or former member of the program to die suddenly over the past three months. Freshman running back Keeley Dorsey collapsed during a workout last month, and Andre Waters, an ex-assistant and uncle to two current players, committed suicide at his Tampa home in November.
Monday's incident took place with about 10 minutes left against the Columbus Ga. Lions. Camon was running toward a receiver when he collided with a Lions player trying to block him. Both were knocked to the turf. The game was stopped for 25 minutes as medical personnel tried to save Camon, who was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
"My son passed away doing what he loved most," his mother, Nathalie Montgomery, said in a statement released by the Thunder.
The Volusia County medical examiner has not signed off on an autopsy performed Tuesday, but the cause of death is a broken neck, a spokesman said. Such a death is typically instant, he said, with no electrical impulses traveling to the rest of the body.
The league said the Thunder gives all players "intense, detailed and thorough" physical exams before signing them.
The league has only four teams, and the two playing Monday are owned by the same group. Players make $250 per game with an extra $50 for wins, meaning a 14-game season would pay a maximum of $4,200. Some out-of-town players also receive housing assistance.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday in Ormond Beach. Funeral arrangements in Port Charlotte were still being finalized.
"He left such a positive influence on everybody he came into contact with," said Binky Waldrop, Camon's coach at Charlotte High. "He loved to play the game, and it was his life. This is a tremendous loss."