URBANA — Cameron Mammen will play college football in one of the most revered communities for the sport in the country.
On Monday night, the Area Player of the Year gave a verbal commitment to Malone University, located in Canton, Ohio, approximately one mile from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We practice there on Tuesday nights,” Malone offensive coordinator Joel Penner said.
Mammen, who set Twin City records for passing yards and total offense, was recruited as a quarterback.
“I’m very excited about it,” Mammen said. “I’d love to be the quarterback on a college team.”
It was a whirlwind courtship that started exactly seven days before he committed. Penner received an email from Mammen’s father, Mark, and is glad he didn’t hit the delete button.
“This is not typical,” Penner said, “especially for a quarterback, which is a position where you develop a relationship, but I’ve learned nothing is predictable in college football recruiting.”
Malone and Mammen were in identical situations. Mammen had held out hope of receiving a scholarship offer from the University of Illinois. Malone was recruiting another quarterback, but the same weekend that the UI asked Mammen to enroll as a preferred walk-on, the player Malone had targeted picked another school.
“A kid that one school drops is another school’s gift,” Penner said.
Mammen acknowledged that eight days ago he was fearful that his options might be limited this late in the recruiting process.
“It has been on my mind,” he said, “whether or not I’d get an offer.”
Penner said Mammen had all of the traits the school was looking for in a quarterback.
“We want a quarterback that is able to create offense with his legs and arm,” Penner said. “The email from his father did a good job explaining who he was.”
Penner said he made no promises to Mammen as far as immediate playing time, but added, “I told him he was the first player we’ve recruited for this offense and that can’t be said about all the quarterbacks on our roster.”
The Malone roster includes two juniors and one sophomore at the position. Penner is entering his second year as offensive coordinator, but he was hired after Signing Day in 2012.
The school finished 1-9 last season.
“Cam is a real good fit for us,” Penner said. “We know he has been a part of turning programs around.”
Mammen directed Urbana to its first ever football playoff win last November. This winter, he is wrestling and has won all 24 of his matches.
While on the Malone campus, Mammen went through a workout and, Penner said, was impressive.
“Everything we’d seen on film began to come true,” Penner said. “He did very well when we worked him out. It was obvious to us (to offer a scholarship).”
Mammen’s overall athleticism appealed to the Malone staff.
“In that weight class (170 pounds), you can’t be a good wrestler if you’re not a tough kid,” Penner said.
Mammen is ecstatic to get the decision made prior to the start of Saturday’s Class 2A regional at Mahomet-Seymour.
“Now that I’m locked in, it’s a big weight off my shoulders,” he said.
Last weekend, Mammen also visited another Division II school in Ohio — Findlay, which has won multiple national championships.
They, too, offered a full scholarship.
“Malone is a Christian school and they told me I’d be a perfect fit for them,” Mammen said. “They said I could jump right in and they would build the offense around me.”
Penner said Mammen is a good fit beyond football.
“In our program, our coaches are men of faith,” he said. “We know that God has a plan for our program and we trust that the right guys will fall in place.”
Even on short notice, Malone got a quarterback and Mammen got a scholarship. It’s what’s called a win-win scenario.