Sports

Kentwood grad fills veteran role for Sounders

Kentwood graduate Cam Weaver with the Seattle Sounders. - Courtesy Photo
Kentwood graduate Cam Weaver with the Seattle Sounders.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

A traumatic injury often marks the end of a prep soccer player’s career. For Cam Weaver, though, it was the impetus for his success.

The Kentwood star stood on the sidelines with crutches following an ankle injury in the second game of the Conks’ 2002 state tournament run. Weaver was a first team all-league selection, but had lost some interest in the game, quitting the club teams that are so crucial to elevating within the sport. He had no definitive plans to play in college.

But as he watched his high school teammates limp to a third place finish in state, he couldn’t help but feel he was missing out on something.

“I had this strong feeling that if I would have been there playing we would have at least got to the championship game and been able to compete for a state championship,” Weaver said. “I was so bummed that I didn’t get to do that. I was like, ‘I can’t be done playing now.’ So I just decided to keep playing. I called the coach at Skagit Valley and told him I was going to tryout.”

Weaver wowed at the nearby community college and eventually moved on to lead Seattle University in goals and the 2004 Division II national championship. His pro career started in 2006 with the United Soccer League Seattle Sounders, where he was the league’s co-leading scorer and Rookie of the Year.

After scoring 21 goals in 51 matches for a club in Norway’s top division and playing a role in two MLS Cup finals trips for the Houston Dynamos, the Kent native has returned home as a veteran reserve for the MLS’s Seattle Sounders, who currently sit atop the league standings.

The 30-year-old joined the Sounders on a tryout basis and has only seen action in one regular season game, but says he couldn’t be happier to be home.

“It’s awesome to be back,” he said. “I love the Northwest. I grew up here. I love everything about the area.”

A lot has changed since Weaver left his home more than seven years ago, including the unconditional love for the Seattle soccer club, which averages more than 38,000 fans for home games, and the fact that Covington is considered a town.

“Nobody referred to it as a city when growing up,” he said. “Used to just be an area.”

After signing with the Sounders, Weaver and his wife, Estrella, moved in with his parents, Bill and Julie Weaver, who still live in Kent. The pair eventually found an apartment in Capitol Hill and he is in the process of remodeling a home with his dad in Renton — roughly half way between home and the city.

The return home has predictably led to friends and family asking for Sounders gear, but Weaver loves how the city has embraced the team and is surprised to find friends from school who are now diehard fans.

“It’s not something I would have predicted when I was growing up around here,” Weaver said. “It’s not something I’d have even thought about.”

After years of playing heavy minutes, Weaver has taken on the role of mentor and veteran presence for the Sounders. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said Weaver has done well and provides leadership and depth at the center-forward position. Schmid said and he expects Weaver’s 6 foot 4 inch frame could be useful as the season progresses.

“He’s different than our other forwards because he’s a big target in the air who is very dangerous in the air, which is different than what (Obafemi Martins) is or (Clint) Dempsy, or some of the other guys we have up there,” Schmid said. “There are still going to be times going forward in the season and in the Open Cup where that aerial presence is going to be important to us.”

Weaver knows injuries happen and that it’s hard for the starters to play every minute of every game. He says he will be ready when called upon.

“Everyone needs to contribute at some point during the season,” he said. “You always have to be ready. It’s something I know and it’s something I’m trying to tell all these other younger guys.”

The Sounders dish nearly $6.7 million, plus bonuses, to Dempsey, their star player. Meanwhile, Weaver will earn just more than the veteran league minimum of $49,004 for his role this year. Weaver said he didn’t return to Seattle for the money and that pay differential is of not a concern.

“The way (Dempsey’s) been playing lately he’s sure been earning it,” Weaver said. “He is a world class player. He’s been a good guy. I’ve been impressed watching and hanging out with him.”

Weaver suffered a knee injury earlier this year but has fought through, just like he decided to do with the Conks 12 years ago.

Kentwood soccer head coach Aaron Radford, who was the JV coach in 2002, remembers Weaver’s squad as likely the most talented in school history. He said he recently ran into Weaver and they reminisced about what could have been.

“We both agreed it was one of those tailor-made, picture perfect teams,” Radford said. “There’s something to be said about not being able to finish your senior year the way you want. It still leaves a little empty spot inside you.”

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