Recruited as a fullback, Cameron Tinner has instead found a home for his hometown Shippensburg University Red Raiders along the defensive line.
After a breakout season in which he started all 11 games, the rising redshirt-junior and Ship native was named one of four SU football team captains for the upcoming campaign, joining redshirt-junior tight end David Balint III, redshirt-senior wide receiver Winston Eubanks and redshirt-junior safety Trey Paul.
Team captains were chosen in a vote by their fellow players.
“Obviously it is a tremendous honor,” Tinner said Friday. “It shows all of the hard work that I’ve been putting in and the trust that my teammates have in me. It was a good feeling when I saw that list.”
Tinner was originally brought as a fullback following a high school career where he excelled as a fullback and linebacker, but he was moved to the other side of the ball following his redshirt year when then offensive coordinator J.C. Morgan accepted the head coaching position at Millersville University.
Jesse Correll, the Red Raiders’ new offensive coordinator, implemented more of a true spread system, and there really wasn’t a need for a fullback in the offense. That is what prompted SU head coach Mark ‘Mac’ Maciejewski with the idea of switching Tinner to the defensive line.
“I had no problems doing it, I look at it as any way to help the team. That’s just the type of player that I view myself as,” Tinner noted. “It’s been a work in progress, but it’s been eye-opening. It shows you the hard work is paying off, because each year I'm continuously showing growth and seeing it reflect in time on the field.”
Tinner credited his time as a high school wrestler as what taught him the self discipline to play on the interior line. Wrestling has also helped him with the hand fighting that is typical of that position.
“In our defense, it is a gap responsible defense,” Tinner stated. “You have to have the discipline to know when to hold your ground and whatever gap you are responsible for is yours. That is how I view myself. I don’t view myself as a guy that needs to make every play, I view myself as somebody that is supposed to do their job. I just have the mentality that if you handle your job, everything else will come.”
He has also gotten much stronger, putting on approximately 40 pounds of good weight since he arrived on campus. He recently tipped the scales at 265 pounds.
It hasn’t always been easy down in the trenches. He did not make the travel team for the first game of his freshman year. But that initial setback pushed him even harder. Not only did he make the travel squad for every game after the opener, he saw quite a bit of playing time, and ended his first season with a defensive touchdown in a Senior Day blowout win.
Tinner earned the starting gig last year as a redshirt-sophomore, posting 22 tackles, including three sacks and four tackles for loss.
He had his best game as a Raider Week 9 at home against Lock Haven, forcing a fumble on the very first play of the game and later adding a fumble recovery in another lopsided victory.
“The moment where I really felt like I could do this was against Lock Haven,” Tinner recalled. “That [game] allowed me to realize that you can do what you want to do, you just have to take it day-by-day and not look too far ahead. At the end of the day, it’s football and you can’t make it too complicated because it’s already a hard enough game.”
Tinner and the rest of the SU football squad, coming off a 4-7 season, have been dealt a tough hand recently, as they were unable to see the field for spring practice because of the coronavirus.
“This was a spring that the team and the coaches really wanted to have after the season that we had last year. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are trying to prove themselves, and spring ball is the time where you do that,” Tinner mentioned.
He added, “We are still having meetings. Last Sunday we had a team meeting on Zoom, so it was nice to see everybody’s face. We have weekly position meetings on Zoom, too. It’s really nice because it keeps us interacting with the guys. Nowadays with all the social media we can still talk to them, but actually seeing them face-to-face on the screen and talking football is nice. It kind of gets your mind off everything that is going on right now, because it can be pretty stressful.”
According to Tinner, the team had a good eight weeks of lifting and running prior to the scheduled start of spring practice. His hope is that the virus clears up by August so that the team is able to hit the ground running.
Tinner’s father, Clyde Tinner, also played football for the Red Raiders. But despite growing up in town, Tinner didn’t always want to stay close to home. He was ultimately swayed to join the SU football program because of his strong relationship with the SU coaches.
Coach Mac and company are glad he did.
“Cameron is a quality young man and a natural leader,” Maciejewski said. “His work ethic provides the foundation for his leadership. His loyalty to our football family and to his teammates is evident in everything he does. He has passion and pride for our football family, which is why he was awarded the 2019 Red Raider Pride award at our team banquet. He shows enthusiasm for his teammates and for Red Raider Football.”
Many of Tinner’s former coaches, including Shippensburg High School coach Eric Foust, have reached out to congratulate him since he was named team captain.
“It goes to the work that they did too, they are a part of this,” Tinner stated. “They are a part of molding me. The same with my parents. It’s a process and it’s more than me, but it’s nice to know that my hard work has paid off. Being one of those four names is pretty remarkable. All four of those guys, Dave, Trey, Winston and I; that is such a special group and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Shippensburg’s season opener is Sept. 5 at West Virginia State.