Greg Camarillo, class of 2000, played football for the first time in fifth grade for the Redwood City 49ers. “I had been trying to convince my mom to let me play football and she finally let me,” he said. “I did not understand what it took to do well, so I stopped playing team football and played all kinds of other sports– baseball, basketball, and soccer. I went back to football the summer before my freshman year at M-A.” Camarillo went on to play football at Stanford as a walk-on and then have a professional football career.
Camarillo was raised in a family that strongly valued academics; his father was a Stanford professor. “My parents instilled early on how many opportunities would open up because of school. I always took pride in being a good student and working hard,” he said.
The importance of grit would also apply on the field for him. Camarillo said, “I loved being part of a team. I never wanted to let anyone down. In sports, everyone relies on each other and wins together.”
When Camarillo was on the M-A football team, it was not nearly as strong or large as it is today. He said, “When I was playing for M-A, we never won a championship. It was more of just a regular after-school sport. I still had a lot of fun and I have the best memories of my teammates, who are guys that I still talk to today.”
In terms of college football, Camarillo said, “I was not the fastest guy, but I loved football and I wanted to keep playing, so I was looking at Division 3 schools.” However, after he was accepted to Stanford for his academics, he was able to meet the football coach. “He offered me a spot as a walk-on and I’m really glad he did,” Camarillo said.
At Stanford, Camarillo studied product design. He shared, “I always liked math and science, and also working with my hands. I loved my major because it combined all my interests and put it into academics.”
After college, Camarillo continued to play football professionally. He explained, “Through a few connections at Stanford I got the chance to try out for the San Diego Chargers. That tryout got my foot in the door and turned into a year on the practice squad and then an NFL career. I had a lot of cool experiences, like meeting Bill Clinton, and just playing professional football in general. But there is also the stress of being in a high-performance industry, and if you don’t perform, your job could be gone.”
Camarillo approached the uncertainty of an athletic career by always thinking ahead. He said, “When I was undrafted, and throughout my sports career, I tried to always prepare for what’s next. In college, I had many engineering internships. While I wanted to keep playing football as long as I could, I knew that eventually I was going to need a regular career.”
Camarillo went on to play for the San Diego Chargers (2005–2006), Miami Dolphins (2007–2009), Minnesota Vikings (2010–2011), and New Orleans Saints (2012).
After his professional football career, Camarillo planned to become an engineer. However, he would end up on a different path. He now works as an academic mentor at San Diego State in the athletic department one-on-one with student-athletes. He also runs a nonprofit program called The Athlete Academy, which supports high school student-athletes in underserved communities.
Camarillo claims his athletic experience helped him connect with the student-athletes in his program. “With all the kids I work with, there is always something to talk about in sports,” he said.
Camarillo said the favorite part of his job is “being part of a team, going to athletic events, and also working in education. Working with all student-athletes feels like trying to help them through the journey that I went through. I got a lot of help from tutors and mentors, so this is my chance to return that favor but also be in a career that I enjoy.”
“In engineering, you often make a lot of money while jobs in education don’t necessarily pay the best,” Camarillo said. “Before my professional football career, I was interested in engineering because I liked the topic, but also it was a job that would get me a solid lifestyle. But, as I made money through football, I was able to pursue a job I was passionate about rather than being concerned about the salary.”
After his football career, Camarillo attended graduate school at San Diego State University with a master’s in educational leadership. He said, “I also volunteered in the athletic department in the exact role I’m in now. I really liked it, I liked connecting with people, and I liked building relationships with college student athletes and being a small part of their journey watching them succeed.”
When it came to Pride Hall, Camarillo was inducted in 2014 by Jim Mackenzie. Camarillo said, “It was really cool to reconnect with old coaches and teammates because I had moved all over the country since I graduated.”
Camarillo also played basketball at M-A, and is in the Hall of Fame for it. “I’m 6’2, so in basketball I would have had to be a really good shooter and a really good dribbler to go far in college, and I was not a really good shooter or a really good dribbler. At my height in football, I had a decent shot. I would also say I had more of a fire for football. I had a lot of fun on both teams and had a lot of shared teammates I got close with.” he said.
By his junior year, he said, “I was just getting a little bit of interest from mostly Division 3 schools, and I was cool with that. I knew that I had to put getting into school first and then figure out football. But, I really wanted to play and I was going to try my best to find a school where I could play football and be happy with the academics as well.” Camarillo played tight-end up until his senior year at M-A, when he became a wide receiver.
Football played a key role in Camarillo’s life, impacting his personal and professional life. “Early on, football taught me how to work hard and show up,” he said. “When I was first introduced to football, I was not in shape and I was not having fun because of it, making me a bad teammate. When I came back to football at M-A, I knew to be prepared, work hard, and not quit because people were counting on me. Now, that is how I try to try to live every day.”