Loeffler Is Putting In The Work

JACKSON, Miss. – Michael Loeffler remembers laying out the same guidelines so many parents do when their young children first take up extra-curricular activities. Schoolwork would come first. So when Loeffler’s middle child, Cameron, showed an interest in football as a third-grader, he let him play under one condition – the moment his studies slacked, play time was over. “That was the big carrot we held out, that if you don’t get the good grades you can’t play football,” Michael Loeffler said. “That was a huge motivating factor for Cameron. But to be perfectly honest, we never really needed to get on his case for grades. He’s a very self-motivated individual.” That motivation has led Cameron Loeffler across the country, where he is the starting ‘buck’ safety for Jackson State. In the season-opening loss at Mississippi State, Loeffler broke up a pass and was JSU’s second-leading tackler with seven stops. Loeffler was credited with six tackles in last Saturday’s 45-35 victory over Texas Southern at Houston in the Southwestern Conference opener for the Tigers. Loeffler now leads the team with 19.5 tackles, including one for a loss, going into Saturday’s home game against Southern University of Baton Rouge. Since transferring to JSU from College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., Loeffler has impressed Tigers coaches and players alike with his knack for delivering punishing hits on ballcarriers. A “great tackler,” said defensive coordinator Darrin Hayes, adding that Loeffler is also a student of the game. That studious side is what allowed him to come in in the summer and learn the Tigers’ system so quickly that he can play both safety positions.

“He’s a smart guy,” Hayes said. “That’s one reason we recruited him. You can never have enough smart guys that can play. That’s a plus.

“Having just an athlete is fine, but having a smart guy that’s also an athlete – that’s a win-win.” Coach Rick Comegy agrees.

“We wish we had five more of him back there,” said Comegy, whose team plays Tennessee State on Saturday in Memphis. “He’s a sure tackler, he’s tough and he’s smart.”

Those smarts have come in handy for Loeffler, a Biology major who wants to follow in his fathers’ footsteps as a dentist. His older brother, Nathan, has a head start on him. He’s in his second year of dentistry school at Loma Linda University in California, where their father graduated from before opening his practice in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Lindsay, Calif., 23 years ago. Loeffler’s younger sister, Nicole, is studying to be a dental hygienist.

“The health field just seems to be what our family has gravitated towards,” said Michael Loeffler, who will bring his wife of 30 years Linda, and others with him to the Tigers’ home opener this Saturday.

But mixing books and football hasn’t always been easy for Loeffler. Morning classes are followed by evening practices, which give way to more classes and additional studying. And while he’s some 1,900 miles from home, Loeffler still adheres to the guidelines put in place by his parents years ago.

“Getting into dental school is really competitive,” Loeffler said. “I know I’m going to have to put my time in. When practice is over, I can’t go play around. I can’t just pass my classes, I have to get the best grades I can.”

Loeffler is on pace to graduate in December 2013, then, it’s dental school. He said he and his brother plan on starting their own practice, either opening a new office or possibly moving into their father’s current office on South Mirage Avenue that they visited so often as kids.

“He’s always said if we all shared a practice, he’d ween himself off and work one or two days a week for us,” Loeffler said of his father.

“Nothing would make me happier,” Michael Loeffler said. “That would be awesome.”

For now, though, his son has a few more teeth-rattling tackles to make.

– Travis Downey is a sports reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson Miss. To contact Travis Downey you can email him at [email protected] or contact the Clarion-Ledger at (601) 961-7000 Hours: M-F, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Clarion-Ledger is located at 201 S Congress St., Jackson, MS 39201. Mailing address: P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39205-0040. www.clarionledger.com

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