– To many, Cam Worthy’s six-catch, 224-yard outing during East Carolina’s 28-21 victory over No. 17 Virginia Tech was a shocking performance. To Worthy, it was no surprise at all.
“I knew it was coming eventually,” Worthy said. “I’m highly confident. I just knew if I waited my turn it would come to me.”
It’s been quite the journey for the 6-3, 220-pound senior X receiver, one with more twists and turns than any double move you’ll see him make on Saturdays.
Worthy grew up in Blair, S.C., and played quarterback for four years at Lower Richland High. Upon graduation in 2010, Worthy expected to spend the next four seasons behind center at Catawba, but things did not go according to the game plan.
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“I had a scholarship at a small school in North Carolina to play quarterback,” Worthy said. “I went there for a year and got kicked out.”
Worthy declined to discuss his departure, but it forced him to head to California to play at Yuba Community College. It was there Worthy received an education that stemmed far behind the classrooms.
“I went out to California and it really humbled me, I needed every last bit of it,” Worthy said. “Some nights I went without eating, taking cold showers. I remember the power went out sometimes and I had to sleep on some mattresses. It just really humbled me.”
Worthy said that experience changed his character -- and his football position.
“I came in two weeks before the season started and they moved me to receiver and basically told me to run fades and posts,” Worthy said.
In one season with the 49ers, Worthy was named to the All-Bay Valley Conference team. Despite his success, the speedy wideout had his mind set on running back to the east coast.
“I was ready to leave California,” Worthy said. “I took like 32 or 34 units in one semester just to get out of there. … It was just tough. The coaches were great, the football program was great, but it was just too far away from home. There were a lot of nights I went hungry. It was hard on me.”
Worthy sent his highlight film to the University of South Carolina but never heard back from coaches. East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley saw potential in that film and invited Worthy to walk-on.
Riley said Worthy was a work in progress, but was willing to put in the work to get to where he is now.
“He’s made one of the biggest jumps that I’ve personally seen a receiver make,” Riley said. “When he got here you could see some talent, he had a big frame and big hands. But he was so raw, I mean raw doesn’t even begin to describe it.
“The job that he’s done and (outside receivers coach) Dave Nichols has done is unbelievable. … The improvement he’s made is as much or more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Worthy redshirted his first year at ECU in 2012. He played in all 13 games last season but caught just 19 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns.
In ECU’s first two games this season Worthy grabbed five passes for 78 yards. Then came Saturday, when he broke the 200-yard receiving mark for only the third time in school history.
More impressive, when the Pirates needed a big play or two during their winning drive, Worthy responded.
On ECU’s three-play, 65-yard game-winning drive, Worthy had receptions of 31 and 28 yards to set up quarterback Shane Carden’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 16 seconds remaining.
“This week we had some one-on-one opportunities with Cam, and the way he is, if it’s one-on-one with Cam, that’s his element,” Carden said. “It’s his ball every time and I feel confident in that. I trust him. He made some great catches and some crucial catches. He had a huge game.”
With record-breaking receiver Justin Hardy being the Pirates’ clear No. 1 choice, Worthy joins sophomore Isaiah Jones as a viable second option. When mixed in with the rest of ECU’s targets the possibilities on offense are endless.
“I think we have several guys,” Riley said. “Everybody knows about Hardy, but Jimmy (Williams) is playing well, Davon (Grayson) is getting ready to take off. Bryce (Williams) had a nice game for us. We have a lot of weapons, the hard thing is there’s only one ball.”
That’s OK with Worthy. He’s waited his turn before.