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There is more to being an athlete than physical strength, especially if you wish to rise to the occasion every time you’re on the field. In this episode, University of Utah quarterback Cameron Rising teaches us what he does to make himself physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally ready to play every down and compete at the highest level during every football game. Join in this conversation to find out what it takes to be named Pac-12 All-Conference First Team Quarterback, rated sixth overall in the country, and voted Pac-12 Player of the Week on multiple occasions. This episode is sponsored by Black Clover — a proud supporter of Utah Football.
Cameron Rising Teaches Us How He Makes Himself Physically Strong, Mentally Tough, And Emotionally Ready To Compete On The Field Each Week
In this episode, University of Utah Football star, Cameron Rising, the extraordinary quarterback from Newbury Park High School Sophomore, All-American, two-time First Team All-CIF, League Offensive Player of the Year, and four-star high school recruit, rated as the number eight quarterback in the nation, shares his life off and on the field as an elite athlete and honor roll student, giving us an inside glimpse into what it takes to be named Pac-12 All-Conference First Team Quarterback, rated sixth overall in the country, and voted Pac-12 Player of the Week on multiple occasions. Teaching us what he does to make himself physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally ready to play every down and compete at the highest level in every game, being resilient with the belief that no matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future. It’s only about, “Right now, what can I do in this play to help us win?”
We’re going to get an inside glimpse into this fine young man. We love you. We honor you. The best word that I could share on behalf of all the other fans who sit in our section at the 50-yard line, we admire you. It’s an honor to have you on my program, my friend.
Thank you for the kind words. Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be here with you.
You’re awesome. I’m a songwriter and I would write a song about him, but I don’t know what rhymes with stud, muff, and hunk of burning love, so we better ignore that conversation altogether. I’m curious, and I know everybody else is curious who would give anything to be sitting here interviewing you, talk about how you were raised at the Rose Bowl. Even though this is evergreen, at the Rose Bowl in 2021, I had a chance to meet your amazing dad, Nicko, your amazing mother, Eunice, and I believe one of your two brothers, and to play cornhole with your dad, who’s an extraordinary competitor and athlete and phenomenal player. Tell us about growing up in your family and how you became this elite athlete, not just physically as a specimen, strong, fast, but a gentleman off the field. Let’s hear about your family.
My parents are both competitive people. They like to have fun and make sure that they’re competing. My brothers are the same way. We grew up competing, who could eat our cereal the fastest, and who can go out there and make the most shots, and doing everything that we can to compete. We find it fun to do anything. Throwing darts, playing ping-pong, you name it, we were out there doing it. They had fun always. It was a good time and childhood, for sure.
As a four-star recruit, and as we heard in the introduction, rated eighth in the nation as a quarterback, what made you decide to transfer from Texas to Utah? Tell us about the real draw of why you’re here and why we’ve embraced you quickly here in the Great State?
Texas didn’t offer what I wanted to study. That was a big part of it. Football-wise, I didn’t like the way that they were running the quarterback so much. I got a little scared to be running quarterback power and doing stuff like that. I didn’t want to put my body through that type of punishment. I ultimately decided it would be best if I were to take my talents elsewhere. Funny story, coming out of high school in Utah, Coach Harding, our line coach came to visit me. I didn’t even see him because at the time they had Jack Tuttle committed, and I was also committed to Oklahoma. It’s funny how it comes back around like that.
What about Utah and our culture and our team and our fan base will keep you here when the possible transfer portal temptation will obviously come your way as an elite quarterback here in the country?
My teammates, I love those guys. They do a great job coming in and wanting to work every day. I love being around them. That’s why it’s fun to come in each and every day. You can do it with a smile because the guy next to you is grinding just as much as you are. It makes it that much more fun. You don’t even think about all that other stuff, all the outside noise that can cloud your mind and make you think of stuff that is not important. In that time, you’ve got to keep the main thing and focus on the ball and being with your team.
It’s obvious when the defense does something well because our tickets are so close, we see you come over and congratulate the defense. It truly is a family. There’s no separation of defense and offense. Second string even rallies to the occasion. Teach us about the culture. How does a coach create a family atmosphere that’s more than a team that your team is so famous for and you as the captain, as the leader, it guides your teammates to believe in each other?
To do it the way Coach Whit does, it comes from coaching the same team for that long and keeping the same coaches in the room, and making sure that guys are meshing well. If you’re able to do that and make sure that you don’t get any guys that are going to be issues or problems within the team, then it’s usually going to bode well for you to keep that culture going. Coach Whit is one of the best in the nation at doing that. He motivates everybody and makes it easy to come in each and every day.
How do you prepare for the game? In so many of the games, you go into that audible mindset often to call off the play that comes from the sideline. How do you prepare yourself for that emotionally so that the coach trusts you, you have a mutual respect and support with the coach so that when the coach up in the booth is calling the play and on the field, you understand that once the game starts, the coach is stuck on the sidelines, somebody has to make a play. How do you prepare yourself so that you know that you can make that real-time adjustment and rise to the occasion?
First, it comes from hours of film preparation and you make sure that you watch all the looks in this formation because this is what we want to do, and this is the look that we don’t want to run this play into. We’ve got to make sure that we know the alert or the check or the kill. Once you know that, then usually throughout the week you’re getting a few reps on the play, making sure that you’re getting one rep of usually the perfect look, what we like to call the postcard look, and then we’re looking for the bad look as well, some type of overload pressure or something that could mess up the play. You usually like to save those for the postcards.
Let’s play ahead. You’re through playing professional football and you decide to be a coach. Would you have your quarterback throw to the receiver who’s dropped two passes in a row, would you keep coming back to him or do you check him off and say, “What a drag?” If the guy fumbles, do you take him out of the game and never play him again? What do you do to help him recover and know that you still believe in him?
Number one, you’ve got to have unwavering belief in all your guys. That’s the only way to get that family feel. If I throw a pass to a guy and he drops it, and then I throw another one and he drops it again, I’m still going to be looking for him. He’s still going to be on my mind. I’m not going to lose faith in those moments just because of that one play. One play doesn’t define you. You can always go make the next. Always being ready for that situation because you never know when it’s going to come up.You've got to have an unwavering belief in all your guys. That's the only way to get that family feel. Click To Tweet
Are there specific words that you would use as a quarterback to a receiver who dropped the pass or somebody who has fumbled the ball?
It depends. It could be a little explicit on the field. Usually, I’m telling them that, “I’m going to come right back to you, and I still have all the faith. I haven’t lost any trust in you. Be ready.”
You win the game in practice, you win the game in the film room, you win the game in the gym. What’s your routine? You’re this physical specimen. You’re faster than anyone realized. Game speed, you turned it on, especially last game. You’re tough. You lowered your shoulder. You got the touchdown. You did whatever you needed to do. Teach us what your routine is that has allowed you to become more mentally tough, physically strong as a big division one quarterback and emotionally resilient. You throw a pick, you fumble, you come right back as a champion. We need to know what you could do mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, maybe that allows you to get back up and go again.
One of the biggest things that I learned is making sure that you always come back to neutral no matter how big the moment or how bad the moment, and find that even keel feel and try to try to let the emotions come and go and take it for what it is and embrace them, but move on to the next one. To get to that point, it’s taken a lot of meditation and making sure that I’m focused and locking in. Throughout that meditation, I like to talk myself through the game and tell myself that you got a group of some great football players that are going to be putting their best foot forward. Rely on them and they’re going to be rely relying on you and go out there and cut loose and have some fun.
What do you do in the morning of a game? What’s your mental routine? What’s your physical routine?
Usually, I’ll wake up, get out of bed real quick, and use the restroom and then go right back to bed and cut some film on and get a feel, get some reminders, look at the pressures that they run most frequently so I get a little reminder of the what the looks may be or what the front may be and go from there and look at the third down so I’m as prepared as I can get. I’m making sure that I’m checking a few more boxes right before I go out. On the way to the game, I usually like to look at my pass picks and go over and find my check downs, make sure I know every route, what my last read progression is, and people that aren’t even in the read progression in case. You never know what can go on throughout the course of a play. I try to be as sharp as I can before the game.
Let’s play this scenario. I loved meeting your parents. You grew up in a solid family, two cool parents. I can’t speak highly enough about your parents. Let’s say that you came from a dysfunctional home. Let’s play this game. Let’s say you came from a dysfunctional home. Your parents are going through brutal divorce or maybe there’s a loss of a family member, a friend, or a love one. There’s some real-life pain, real life tragedy. You are the quarterback of the team and you still have to rise to the occasion on that Saturday afternoon. How can you compartmentalize? Teach us how you are able to block out the rest of the world, every distraction, focus in on your picks, on your progressions, on everything that you’ve been talking to us about. How do you compartmentalize your life and focus in on what is most important right now?
This starts with meditation. That brings me back to where my feet are and focus on this moment right here. Doing that right before the game, that usually gets me locked in. Throughout the game, when the play is in action, there’s nothing else that matters at that point. It’s usually just all about ball. It’s all about making sure that we’re advancing the ball and moving the football so that we can get the ball in the end zone and end with the kick and to have a good time. Like in 2021, it’s never going to be easy. It does involve putting on a mask on days and knowing that it’s not going to be easy, but you have to embrace all those emotions and everything that you’re feeling so that you can work through it and not just put it back in inside or else it’ll come out at a time that you don’t want it to. You have to take it all in.Meditation brings you back to where your feet are, and focus on this moment right here. Click To Tweet
Let’s get to your pre-game preparation. As I’ve shared with other athletes, I asked them, is there a specific music you listen to before the game? Are you mellow? Are you fired up? Is it AC/DC or is it the Mormon Tabernacle choir?
More so R&B. I like to be relaxed. I like cutting on like Marvin Gaye or a Teddy Pendergrass that throw it back a little old school, have a good time and relax.
Do you put it on your headphones like Michael Phelps did before the Olympics? That’s what you’re listening to as you’re out on the field.
Usually when I walk out onto the field, I like to pop the headphones off and take in the whole environment and get ready to go and embrace everything that I’m feeling and want to feel at home on the field.
What’s your favorite movie or Netflix? Do you ever binge on one specific series or a favorite movie?
I love The Office as a Netflix series. I love watching that. That was one of my favorite shows. I still cut it on sometimes to this day. As it comes to movies, that’s tough. It’s a spectrum. It depends on what the mood is if I’m looking for more of a comedy or if I’m looking for something more serious. I do like Interstellar a lot. That’s an awesome movie.
What’s your favorite food? All these questions that people want to know.
It’s either Teresa breakfast burrito. I love eating that. That’s probably what I’ve ate most in my life. For breakfast, every time I go home, I usually go to Los Comales, the one spot that I love and get the horchata with the breakfast burrito and I’m good to go. I also do love watermelon. It’s a little routine that I have.
What’s your default food? If you’re home alone and you need to cook for yourself, what would you whip up?
It depends. I like to get a steak or even a fish filet or either a steelhead trout or even a salmon and then cook it in the air fryer and get maybe some asparagus or a cauliflower or something like that and make it with some potatoes.
Are you a chef?
Not necessarily me. My girlfriend does a little bit more of the cooking thing. I like to get in the kitchen when I can.
That’s cool. Maybe in football you step up to the center and you’re like, “This is a recipe.” Every one of these linemen is a different fruit, different vegetable. That’s a stupid analogy. You have to put it together and mix it up and see what happens.
Something special is going to happen.
Let’s flip the switch. Football, your pro career is over. What are your plans? What do you see yourself doing once you get out of the NFL? A passion or a desire, what’s it about?
Hopefully, it’s still involved with football some way, somehow, whether it would be announcing games or even coaching them and getting that same feel that you get. I love the excitement that you get from coming out here on Saturdays and being in the stadium filled with people that are all there for that one thing. It’s awesome. There’s nothing like it. That’s why I’d love to be a part of it for as long as I can.
I’m sure you will be. If you were asked what’s your personal brand, what would it be? Obviously, you have a unique hairstyle. My hair would look exactly like yours except I’m losing my hair right here and I’m growing it in places I don’t even need it. It’s not a fair trade off. My only hope is that the hair in my right ear will grow long enough, I can comb it up over the top of my head and fake all of you out. What’s your brand? Is it your goatee? Is it your million-dollar smile? Is it your contagious laugh? Is it your positive attitude? Is it your crazy hair? Is it your outfit? Is it the shoes that cost more than my car? What is your brand?
I don’t even know. I haven’t defined that. In my head, I’m a guy that’s a little goofy that likes to have fun and is competitive as all get out. That’s my nature. That’s who I am. If I’m not having fun, then I probably won’t be doing that for long. That’s me pretty much.
What would you say to a new recruit who comes into the University of Utah to check out our system, coaches, and facilities with the NIL? The question is what used to be at the top of the recruiting list, all of the facilities, all of the above. I was 20 for 20 when I was playing football and baseball at the University of Utah. They would give me these recruits and I signed 20 out of 20. I take a lot of pride in that. The games change, my friend. Now it’s NIL. What would you say to a recruit to help him come to you to understand the special quality of life and quality of family focus that we bring to the table here that would circumvent somebody offering them big money to go somewhere else?
The thing that separates Salt Lake is the market. It’s a great market size. There’s plenty of people out there that are Utes themselves and Utah fans that are there and would love to support any Ute that they can. When you come here, you got to make sure that you’re playing some good football and doing everything that you can, but you’re going to be taken care of. That’s the way that the valley works pretty much out here. It’s fun.
What is your favorite NFL team?
Growing up, I went to the Cowboys’ training camp out in Oxnard, California. One time I hurt my ankle and was the only person in the handicapped section. I had Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Marion Barber come over. Ever since then, die hard.
How old were you then?
I want to say probably about 10.
You were at Newberry Park. The Cowboys had their training camp up at Lutheran College. I’ve been out there down 101. That’s interesting. When you get drafted, who would be your favorite team to play for? I’m putting you on the spot here.
It could be any one of the teams. It doesn’t matter to me. I’d be more than happy to be playing in the NFL. That’d be a dream come true right there.
As a pro style quarterback, there are certain offenses that you are more naturally focused on or your abilities would be showcased easier. The reason why you came to Utah is because of the style. Whittingham had been around for so long that you knew what to expect and that you could fit right in.
I like the idea of getting under center and making sure that I learned football and how it’s supposed to be played and how the guys in the NFL and how they’re doing it on Sundays are doing it because it gives you a deeper understanding of the game. It’ll ultimately help me be a coach if that’s something that I do want to do or even if I’m calling plays and as an announcer. There are many different opportunities on it that come from truly learning the sport. Having done that with Coach Lud, he’s gave me so much knowledge because he’s been in coaching for over 30 years and is an unreal coach and knows how to hit the details. That’s why I chose Utah ultimately because of Coach Lud and his genius.
Who has been a football player that inspired you as a young man?
I love Tony Romo. That was one my favorite quarterbacks being a Cowboys fan. Having met him and everything, he’s awesome.
If you were put as the recruiting coordinator, would you recruit speed and size over character or would you recruit character over speed and size?
It depends on what the speed and size is looking like. You got to have character at some point. It’s going to cost you if you don’t have a guy that has good character because he is one of the best things since sliced bread. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to bode well for your team and mean that you’re going to get more success. It’s hard to go against the speed and size, but probably character.
The beautiful answer without putting you on the spot would be find someone like you who has speed, size, and character. I wanted to be able compliment you. You’re such a good man with such a great attitude off the field. You lose, what do you say to your teammates as a captain?
I pretty much tell them that I haven’t stopped believing. All our goals are still out there and they’re still obtainable. We got to make sure that we’re not doing more, but we’re doing what we’re doing better at a higher level so that we can up our play and elevate everything because it’s a dire time and we need to lock in right now pretty much.
As an elite quarterback, in this is Evergreen, the year was 2021. The four NFL divisional playoff games all boiled down to the last play of the game. Kansas City’s teeing up against Buffalo in the last two minutes of the game. They collectively scored 25 points. Josh Allen, a character guy like you. Patrick Mahomes, a character guy out of Texas. You remind all of us, especially me, who study that and have an op opportunity to meet these guys. You remind me of those two guys more than anybody else in the NFL.
I appreciate that. Those are the two of the best doing it in the game.
My question to you is, Patrick Mahomes has 13 seconds on the 25-yard. He has to take his team 75 yards in 13 seconds, and he gets into the huddle. Now, it’s you. What do you say to your teammates when everybody in the stadium, even the guys selling hotdogs have left and given up? What do you say in that moment? Remember, he took him down to the 40-yard line in 11 seconds with 2 seconds left. What do you say when you’ve been booed, when you’ve thrown an interception, when your running backs fumbled, the kicker missed the previous kick, and there’s this chaos outside of the huddle, what you say as a quarterback to bring them back to saying, “What is it that we need to do right now?”
Coming off the sidelines, I’d first tell them nothing’s more important than this next rep. That’s the only thing that matters. We need to focus on that and the rest will handle itself. Usually, right before the huddle when we’re walking out there, call a play, look at the guys and say, “It’s going to be one hell of a story. There’s no other group of guys that I’d rather be doing it with. Let’s go do it.”
When you’re injured, how do you come back? Not just injured physically, but injured emotionally. What do you do mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually to get back up and go again when you know it’s a serious injury? You’re knocked out at the Rose Bowl. Great concern. Do you think about getting better right now or do you immediately think, “What about my future?”
There are always going to be thoughts of your future. You never want to have a play like that where you get knocked out during the course of a game. It’s probably one of the scariest parts of football. It’s been happening often. It’s scary to see. You focus on taking it day by day, especially with an injury like that, and making sure that your head is as good as it can be and making sure you alleviate all the hits and everything that you can take. That’s why I’m glad I played quarterback and don’t have to hit during practice or do any of that. It saves the head a little bit.
As we wind down, if you had one hour to live, what would you drive five hours one way to say to somebody for free? What’s it all about for you?
It’s about being a good person and having fun. It’s such a short life. Having teammates that have died in the past and family members and everything, it puts it into perspective that life is short and you don’t have as much time as you think. It’s easy for me to sit here right now being younger to think that there’s a lot of life left to be lived. The sad reality is the days may be long, but the weeks are short and you blink and I feel like I was in high school yesterday. That’s why you got to take advantage of every second you have and have fun.The sad reality is the days may be long, but the weeks are short. That's why you got to take advantage of every second you have and have fun. Click To Tweet
Would you agree that there’s nothing more insignificant than the halftime score?
I don’t think you have to pay very much attention. You have to lock in on the next half, and putting the best brand of football you can on tape.
One play at a time. There you have it. Fan of Cameron Rising, not because he stretched the stuff on the football field, but because he is an extraordinary human being who happens to play football. For the record, we need to repeat one more time that you have beat your dad, Nicko, in Cornhole more than once.
It happens every time I’m home or whenever we go somewhere and play.
Never say never. How do we follow you? How do we keep in touch with you? How do we join your tribe? How do we reach out to support you and work out any kind of NIL deal that has nothing to do with the university, but it has to do with individuals like us to make sure that you do live lucky?
You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @CRising7. I’ll be on there. I have the link to my agents, pretty much email. You can send over any opportunities that way and get in touch that way and take it from there. I also have a website, CameronRising.com where I’m selling some apparel. Half the proceeds are going to the 22 Foundation for Ty and Aaron. Any help there would be most appreciated. Thank you.
I have some towels from all those away games. I have some towels I’ve stolen from Marriott that we could throw on your website, maybe sell them to help raise some money. I’m sure you have a few towels you’ve taken as well. There you go. Cam Rising, number seven on the field, number one in our hearts. We love the Utes. Thanks for being in our program.
Thanks for having me.
About Cameron Rising
- Pac-12 All-Conference first-team in 2021.
- 2021 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year semifinalist.
- 11 career games with 200+ passing yards, including one 300-yard game and one 400-yard-game.
- 21 career games with 19 starts.