Friday, February 5, 2010

Boys, parents have hero in former IU football coach

Last week, my boss on this job, Rick Morwick, asked me to write a story about being torn between rooting for the Colts or fellow Purdue alumnus Drew Brees in this week’s Super Bowl. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know Brees personally, and the fact that he is a fellow Purdue grad will not affect my rooting interests for the Colts. End of story.
But there is an endearing tale trickling out of Baltimore about a Hoosier native who has made life miserable for the Colts in recent years.
Cam Cameron grew up in Terre Haute. He played football and basketball at Indiana University. His coaching career has spanned the University of Michigan, the Washington Redskins, Indiana University, the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins and now the Baltimore Ravens. As offensive coordinator, Cameron orchestrated several Chargers victories against the Colts.
“Cam Cameron is in my hall of fame,” said Jamie Costello, who is starting his 21st year with
WMAR-TV in Baltimore. Costello co-anchors “Good Morning
For two decades, he has covered every major event in Baltimore, from the pope’s visit, the Ravens winning the Super Bowl to Cal Ripken’s first game all the way to Cooperstown.
Costello’s 14-year old son, Matthew, has an inoperable brain tumor. The tragic news was discovered in October. The Costellos will find out this week if the tumor has shrunk to the point where Matthew can end chemotherapy treatments and begin radiation. Matthew is a classmate of Danny Cameron, son of the Ravens offensive coordinator.
“I was set to go on the air for a marathon shift late in December when we got hit with 14 inches of snow,” Jamie Costello said. “I called my wife and told her that I was going to be tied up, and text me on my cell phone if she needed me. A little while later she called and said that Cam
Cameron was coming to the house to see Matthew.
“Now understand this is a driving snowstorm, and the governor has issued an all-points bulletin restricting traffic on the roads, and Cam, who we had never met, was driving to my house to see Matthew,” Costello said. “Cam shows up with a Joe Flacco-signed football, a Surge hat from his trip to Iraq and notes from Flacco and him. It blew Matthew away.
“As he walked out of the house, he turned around and asked Matthew if there was a play that he wanted Cam to call in the game that week against the Bears. Matthew said, ‘Call a play-action pass,’” Costello said.
Cameron picks up the story here.
“We call a play-action pass on the first play of the game, and Flacco one-hops the ball in the dirt to Derrick Mason. We come back later in the game and call the same play. This time it goes for a touchdown to Todd Heap.”
That Sunday night, after the game, the phone rang about 8:30 p.m. in the Costello house.
“It was Cam calling to talk to Matthew,” Jamie Costello said. “He was excited and wanted to tell my son that they had written his name on the game plan that week and the touchdown pass play to Heap was called ‘Matthew Costello.’ Later that week, Cameron’s wife, Missy, showed up at the Costello house with a football signed by Flacco and Heap.”
A couple of weeks later, the Ravens were traveling to New England for the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.
“It’s the Friday night before the New England game,” Jamie Costello recalled. “The phone rings, and Cam is calling to talk to Matthew. It’s the biggest game of the year, and he is finding the time to call Matthew. Unbelievable. Again, he asks Matthew if there is a play he would like to see on the opening drive. Matthew says that Ray Rice is hot, give him the ball.”
Cameron gives his version.
“We take the opening kickoff back to our 17-yard line. I wasn’t going to open up with a running play, but with the bad field position I decided to change the play call, and we went with Matthew’s play — a Ray Rice run. The rest is history. Rice goes 83 yards for the touchdown. I just looked to the sky and said, ‘Maybe there is something to this kid.’”
Meanwhile, Jamie Costello is in the press box at Gillette Stadium and watches the play unfold.
“I am down in the left-hand corner of the press box. When they hand the ball off to Ray, this huge hole opens, and he starts racing down the field. I jump out of my seat and start screaming, ‘He’s gone, he’s gone.’
“Of course, they have a no-cheering policy in any press box, and I am getting all of these dirty looks from the other media people. But I knew it was the play that Matthew had called, and I could not contain myself,” Costello said with a laugh.
That opening play set the tone for Baltimore’s 33-14 rout of New England.
Last week, Matthew received another visitor. This time it was Ray Rice. The Ravens running back showed up with the cleats and the jersey that he wore in the New England game. Rice also had a poster that commemorated his 83-yard run. He presented all of this to Matthew.
During the visit, Rice looked at Matthew and said, “You are my inspiration.”
“None of this would have happened if not for Cam Cameron,” Jamie Costello said. “Thanks to Cam, we now have a Facebook page for Matthew with over 3,500 followers in just a few weeks time. Cam has been unbelievable. He is now my hero and will always be in my hall of fame. I used to worship Brooks Robinson, but Cam Cameron is higher than that now for me.”
Cameron knows a little how Matthew feels. The Ravens assistant coach survived serious melanoma cancer at age 28. Earlier this fall, the native Hoosier had another cancer scare, this one prostrate cancer, but the battery of tests turned up nothing.
“My three boys and I talk about Matthew all of the time,” Cameron said. “Anytime we’re going through something a little tough, we say ‘How do you think Matthew’s doing?’”
Thank goodness I didn’t know about the Matthew Costello story before the Colts-Ravens game a couple of weeks ago. It might have made me think twice about my loyalties.

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