Tuesday Toss: Farewell Cam

September 8, 2020
By Evan Lepler

Less than two months ago, I wrote—somewhat facetiously, or so I thought—that Cameron Brock could retire and still remain the AUDL’s all-time leading scorer until 2025 or beyond. After Monday night’s surprising revelation, I suppose we will now test that theory. 

Brock, whose 504 career goals are 218 more than the second-most in AUDL history, shockingly announced his retirement from the Indianapolis AlleyCats with an emotional video message that was posted on Facebook a little after 8 PM in the waning moments of the holiday weekend. Over the course of the poignant and occasionally tearful monologue, the 31-year-old discussed his memories from the 2019 season, his experience becoming a father this past March, and eventually shifted toward his future goals around helping more kids in the Indianapolis area, a mission that will unfortunately move him away from ultimate. 

“I really started thinking about where I make an impact,” said Brock, adorned in his green Indianapolis AlleyCats jersey while sitting on a sofa in the recorded message. “It’s true that I can make an impact on the field with playing well, being a good teammate. My biggest strength that I think I’ve been blessed with is my ability to connect with kids.”

Along with his wife, Casey, Brock is interested in pursuing foster care, and the full-time teacher has also been involved in other mentoring and curriculum planning endeavors. With his passion for these projects only growing, it became clear to him that he could not maintain his training regimen to his high standards in order to continue competing and also give 100 percent toward changing the lives of others in his community.

“If you really want to do something, and it’s really gonna take your time and energy, a lot of times you gotta sacrifice something,” he emotionally explained. “I sacrificed my college ultimate season to pursue this crazy dream of professional ultimate, and it paid off big. The time it takes to be a good teammate, to be a good ultimate player, to be a good competitor, I don’t have time to invest in the youth here in Indianapolis as much as I’d like to. So I’m officially stepping away.”

It’s impossible to fault him for making this decision, but it still stings to think about the AlleyCats and the AUDL without Cam Brock. One of just six players to compete in every season from 2012 to 2019, he only missed two games in that long and fulfilling journey, giving him 120 appearances in his career, the most in AUDL history. Over the course of his eight seasons, he led the league in scoring twice and finished in the top five three other times, basically lapping the field in terms of all-time production. But the numbers only begin to tell Brock’s story, which is actually far more complex than the simple statistical superiority.

For starters, Brock had little to no profile when he tried out for the AlleyCats as a student at Ball State in the fall of 2011. An unknown player without much confidence when it came to distributing the disc, he was quite certain that his chances of even making the team were minimal. The possibility that he would become a prominent downfield target for the team’s O-line seemed implausible and absurd.

But through a combination of hard work and serendipity, Brock managed to win a roster spot and become a key contributor, utilizing his natural speed and uncommon endurance to earn the confidence of his teammates. He found a niche as a downfield scorer, while recognizing his limitations as a thrower, and found the end zone a remarkable 241 times in just his first three seasons in the league. Throughout this emergence, the AlleyCats were generally considered to be a plucky, scrappy underdog of a franchise, a label epitomized by Brock. Neither he nor the city had achieved anything especially noteworthy in the sport of ultimate prior to the franchise’s inception, but there was more a lot to like about the way they competed, always eager to battle against the best and prove that they belonged.

On July 6, 2019, in the penultimate regular season game of his eighth year as an AlleyCat, Brock scored his 500th career goal, reaching an Everest-esque plateau that he never could have imagined. The distance between him and everyone else on the all-time scoring chart is unfathomable, and it also serves as a fascinating starting point for the future conversation about his lasting legacy, which is both impressive and complicated. 

Despite Brock’s eye-popping numerical dominance, many would argue that he was never the top player on his team, a statement not necessarily meant to undermine his excellence but more to offer accurate analysis about his impact. And to his credit, Brock never seemed eager to engage in this debate, instead deciding to maintain his focus on filling his role to the best of his ability and being the top teammate he could be. You might think that type of personality would mean that the guy just kept his head down and did not have much to say. But that’s also where some irony lies, considering Brock was never shy about sharing his opinions concerning everything else he encountered throughout his career. 

The loquacious Brock talked trash in a matter-of-fact way, always coming off as someone whose feelings and emotions flowed freely, in a similar fashion to his retirement speech. He would eagerly and sincerely speak his mind, and he always believed what he said. Sometimes, he would bluntly admit that his team’s performance sucked. Other times, he would bash his opponent with little regard for diplomacy. Frankly, his assertions did not always stand the test of time, but that’s a testament to the ever-changing realities in sports more than Brock being wrong or uncertain. Passion oozed from his words, regardless of whether he was evaluating the league, his team, or himself. He desperately wanted the AlleyCats to reach their potential, and he also genuinely cared about the wellbeing of the league itself, determined to do his part to help the AUDL grow and succeed. 

While his role diminished slightly over the past couple seasons, that was more a byproduct of the AlleyCats adding talent around him than any slippage in Brock’s abilities. In fact, his 93.2 percent completion rate in 2019 was a career-high, and Indianapolis won its division for the first time in eight years. Even with the 2020 season getting canceled by the pandemic, if felt totally reasonable to believe that Brock would continue to churn out another 35-45 goals per season over the next half-decade, perhaps reaching 700 or 800 goals before his playing days concluded.

Shortly after his retirement announcement went public, the social media tributes started pouring in, and two stood out in particular. In Brock’s video message, he casually called out two opponents in a way that was both endearing and emblematic of the relationships he had built and the respect he had earned. He specifically mentioned Madison’s Kevin Pettit-Scantling and Minnesota’s Brandon Matis, both of whom had been in Brock’s division since 2013 and have long been among their teams’ top defensive leaders, entrusted with the responsibility to try and slow down the AlleyCats’ top goal-scoring weapon. Within an hour, Pettit-Scantling and Matis both shared the retirement post and offered their own powerful words of appreciation for all Brock had accomplished in the AUDL.

“To say thank you for your contribution would be an understatement,” wrote Pettit-Scantling. “I’ve spent hours studying you play [sic] in order to come up with some strategy to force a mediocre game out of you; just once. My chalk talk to teammates usually boiled down to: this guy is going to score on you. After seven years as your opponent, working doggedly to keep up, I’m sad to see you go. Mainly because you add so much to the game; secondly because I’ve never felt like I’ve bested you in any contest to date. I’ll always have a chip on my shoulder for that.”

A few minutes later, Matis’ post appeared:

“Something weird happens when you spend most of a decade battling with the same guy—you develop an incredible amount of respect and admiration that turns into an indescribable bond,” wrote Matis. “I think about what he has done to motivate young guys since the league’s inception. You either tried to score goals with the same ease, or tried to be the rare guy who can cover it. Both require unparalleled effort and determination to achieve consistently. Paving the pro path for young dudes (myself included) has always been his biggest achievement whether he realizes it or not—and it sounds like that’s only just the beginning. Congrats on a one-of-a-kind career, Cam. You deserved every minute of it.”

These words truly capture the impact that Brock made on the field throughout his career, though it’s not hard to imagine the next chapter of his life resonating with even more significance than anything he’s done between the lines. His commitment and dedication to the team and the league suggest that whatever he’s focused on will be in good hands. 

Farewell and thank you, Cam. Hope you enjoy the next challenges ahead. 

And I promise I’ll wait at least a month or two before asking if you’re considering a comeback.