Many people reach a point when they decide that it’s time for them to retire, or simply start looking for a path in a new field. However, not many decide to make this change at the age of 25. Then again, not many people get the opportunity to play professional football.
Cameron Lee, a former standout offensive lineman at Oakwood High School announced his retirement from professional football on February 24, 2019 with a letter on Medium.com that he also linked to his social media accounts.
Lee was last on the roster for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), but had made appearances in two games for the Chicago Bears in the 2017 season after playing collegiately at Illinois State.
Lee signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints after going undrafted out of Illinois State University, where he made appearances in 38 games for the Redbirds and started in 25. Lee was waived by the Saints in the early summer and would sign with the Chicago Bears’ practice squad after being released at the end of training camp by the Cincinnati Bengals. Lee was active for two games for the Bears, including a game on Christmas Eve against the Cleveland Browns.
The Bears did not bring back Lee after the end of the 2017 season and he signed with the Baltimore Ravens before being cut at the end of training camp. After being cut, Lee returned to the area where he was a substitute teacher and was a volunteer coach for the Oakwood High School Comets.
While he may have been back in the area, Lee was still trying to keep in shape for his next opportunity. He found it in the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF.
After spending a training camp for the AAF’s inaugural season with the Hotshots, Lee was once again released and claimed by the Orlando Apollos. But his tenure with the Apollos would be very brief.
While attending an Orlando Apollos practice, Lee was struck with a realization as he described in his farewell letter. “I just don’t love football, at least not enough to make it work at this level.”
After this realization, Lee told the general manager of the Apollos (whom he says he had just thanked for the opportunity) that he decided that his football career was over.
That afternoon, Lee got on a plane and flew home; spending his entire layover calling friends and family and letting them know that he had decided to retire. While Lee says he originally felt like he had “come up short” he said by the end of the phone calls there was hope for the future. “That freeness was something I hadn’t felt in a long time,” Lee would go on to explain.
While retiring at the age of 25 may seem attractive to many, Lee has said he still has a lot he wants to accomplish in the next chapter.
In the end of his farewell letter, Lee announced that he recently obtained his real estate license in the State of Illinois and has joined a local brokerage firm.
Lee also says he is now looking to give back to the community that supported him on his journey to the pros stating in his farewell letter: “I want to help as many people as I can. I want to do the most good that I can for as long as I can and I think this next phase of my life is a great opportunity to do that.”
When growing up, Lee looked up to former Major League Baseball player and Oakwood resident, Darrin Fletcher as someone that had made it to the highest level. Now Lee is proud to be an inspiration like Fletcher was for him.
What he wants people to take away from his football career it is that anything can be possible if you are willing to put in the work. “I really just wanted to show people it was possible. For me, it was being a professional athlete. But whatever it is that you really want to do, if you commit, and not just talk about it but really commit, you can do it.”
While it would be easy for Lee to be disappointed that he never made more of an impact on an NFL team, he is still thankful for all he was able to accomplish, stating: “For a little bit, even if it was short, even if I didn’t play a ton of games, even if I didn’t accomplish every goal I wrote down in my notebook when I was a kid, I was one. I played in the NFL.”