Cameron Braaten announced today that he has accepted a preferred walk-on offer from the Hoosiers. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound kicker from Highlands Ranch (CO) ThunderRidge H.S. spoke to Peegs.com about his decision, and about his recent trip to Bloomington to check out IU.
Braaten announced his decision with this post on his Twitter page:
Braaten made an unofficial visit to Indiana this past weekend to meet with the coaching staff and to get a closer look at the football program.
“I came on Saturday morning and spent Saturday and Sunday there,” he said about his visit. “This was actually my second time at Indiana. I went there for a soccer camp about four or five years ago. I absolutely loved everything. The part that stuck out to me the most was the coaches and how good they were to me. I felt like I built a relationship with every coach in the building. They all seemed nice and they all seemed supportive. They just kind of made it clear to me that Indiana is a place that I need to be.”
The talented kicker said he was especially impressed with Coach Jeff McInerney, which is the IU staff member that is heavily involved in working with the special teams unit.
“Coach McInerney is honestly the reason I’m coming to IU,” Braaten said. “The connection that he made with me the second I got there was a lot different than anything I had at San Diego or at Wyoming. He really showed that he believed in me and that he has so much faith in me. He thinks I can be the guy and that meant a lot to me and my family. He made the visit all about us. He showed us the dorms and he went out of his way to show us around campus. It was just special and you could tell he really wanted us there.”
The Indiana staff has told Braaten that they expect him to come in and compete for the starting job at kicker.
“They want me to compete with Griffin Oakes,” he said about the message from the coaches. “I would come in and do field goals and kick-offs and maybe win one or both freshman year, but if not then sophomore, junior, senior year it would be mine if I can prove that I can be the guy.”
Even though the Colorado native will begin his career as a walk-on, there is a chance that he could be put on scholarship as early as this season as a blueshirt.
“I will come in as a preferred walk-on and after Fall Camp they can give me a scholarship and that scholarship counts towards the 2018 class,” Braaten said. “I can still practice and play in games, but the scholarship doesn’t count against this year’s class. To be a blueshirt you have to get into the school by yourself without assistance from the coaching staff. So I applied and got accepted and then reached out to the Indiana coaching staff. That is why I took an unofficial visit, because under the rules of a blueshirt you are not allowed to take an official visit.”
Braaten did not start playing football until last year, but it did not take him long to realize it was something he wanted to pursue.
“The summer before my senior season is when I got serious about it,” he said about giving football a try. “I had always thought about it, but that’s right when I decided to commit to football and told myself that is what I am going to try and do it in college. I played soccer all my life, and then right before my senior year I decided to give football a try. The first time I actually ever kicked a field goal I realized it was a lot harder than it looks, but as I kept going I noticed that my skill-set translated really, really well. So I’m pretty new to it and I think that’s why the IU coaches think I have so much potential.”
Not long after Braaten decided he wanted pursue kicking he attended a camp that was run by Prokicker.com. At the camp the ThunderRidge H.S. standout was evaluated and afterwards he was ranked as the number one kicker in Colorado, and the 15th best kicker nationally.
“I went to an evaluation camp over the summer, and that was within the first month of me being serious as a kicker,” Braaten said. “It was held for kickers in Colorado and the surrounding area, and there were probably about 45 guys at the camp. I think I was ranked around 15th in the nation and number one in Colorado, which was absolutely huge for me.”
This past fall Braaten did not have much of an opportunity to show what he could do as a kicker as he was only able to attempt a few field goals during the 2016 season.
“The season didn’t go as well as we had hoped,” he said. “The offense just never got going and we never really had a consistent quarterback. Personally I had a quiet season. We had a coach that didn’t really want to punt a lot and didn’t want to kick a lot. I think I went 2-of-3 on field goals with one from 35 yards and one from 45 yards. My longest punt was 78 yards. I thought it was a pretty successful season for me individually. It definitely took one or two games to get used to the speed of the game, but other than that I think I adjusted pretty quickly.”
Braaten, who had a scholarship offer from San Diego along with walk-on offers from Indiana and Wyoming, said Big Ten football and the Hoosiers are two things he has always followed because of his family’s connection to both.
“I have grown up always watching the Big Ten,” he said. “My Dad is from Minnesota and my Mom is from Anderson, Indiana. We actually have family that lives about an hour-and-a-half north of Bloomington (in Fishers). So I had always known about Indiana, and I know it has a great business school, and that is originally why I was interested. As I looked more into the football program it looks like they are definitely on the rise. That is what I see and it is pretty clear.”
Attending Indiana University is something that Braaten has thought about for a long time because in his family it is basically a tradition to go to IU.
“I have wanted to go to IU my entire life,” he said. “When I was filling out the application I think I have like 15 other family members that have gone there. We literally have such a tradition of going to IU and it has always been my dream, and I can’t even believe football has worked out here.”