Disc In: A Chat with Cameron Brock

July 14, 2020
By Evan Lepler - "Disc In" Interview Series Archive

When looking at the AUDL’s all-time stats page, it’s fair to wonder if Cameron Brock’s goal total is a typo. It’s not. 

Astoundingly, he does actually have 218 more goals than the second highest total in the league’s history, and his production has more than doubled all but the four peers who join him in the top five. If you removed his career-best 94-goal 2013 season from his ledger completely, he’d still have twice as many scoring grabs than all but nine players in AUDL history. 

He could retire today—of course, that’s something he has no intention of doing—and probably remain atop the chart until 2025 or beyond, considering that the most likely player to potentially pass him one day is New York’s Ben Jagt, who’s still 292 goals away from Brock. Jagt’s averaged 61 goals per season over the past two years, a pace he’d have to pretty much maintain over the next five to surpass the current number by the midway point of this next decade, and that overlooks the fact that Brock will presumably add another 100-200 goals by then.

Here’s another way to see it. Including the playoffs, Brock’s averaged 63 goals per season, a level that just 12 other players have reached in a single season one time. Again, Brock has averaged 63 a year for eight years. That’s 4.2 goals per game over 120 games, a rate that’s superior to every other player that’s appeared in at least 40 games. Perhaps that consistency is what’s most worthy of adulation and praise. 

He’s played through bumps and bruises, missing just two games in Indianapolis AlleyCats history. One absence was after he suddenly experienced a stroke early in his career; the other was the regular season finale in 2019, a game that meant nothing in terms of playoff seeding, as Indy had already locked up the Midwest Division’s top spot. The dedication, commitment, and reliability over the last decade are really only matched by one other AUDL player, a salute to New York’s Matt LeMar, who has been in uniform and active for every single one of the Empire’s 111 games in franchise history. 

Beyond the on-field moments and the accompanying numbers, Brock also resides among the most contemplative players in the league, never shy to share his perspective or engage in a deep conversation. Consequently, it’s fairly natural to imagine Brock flourishing in his other primary professional pursuit as a seventh grade English teacher. 

In our wide-ranging and in depth Q&A, we discussed his new life as a father, his journey toward a career in teaching, and of course his goal-scoring propensity that has outpaced all of his ultimate peers. The conversation, from late last week, has been edited slightly for clarity. 

Evan Lepler: From talking to you on a recent "Live with Lep!," I know that this pandemic basically coincided with the birth of your son, and that being home has given you an amazing amount of time with him. How would you characterize what the past few months have been like for you? What have been the highlights and what have been the challenges? 

Cameron Brock: The last few months have presented some wonderful opportunities for me. Being home with my son for basically every second of his life has been an incredible experience—although difficult at times. I mentioned that I have probably spent more time with my son already in his first four months than most dads do in the entire first year. That’s not a joke, when you think that your average dad is working five days a week and only takes a week off—if that—for the birth of a child. My wife recently went back to work remotely, and I’m off for the summer, so I’ve been watching my son from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily, with a one hour lunch break when my wife takes him. I love that little stinker to death, but man, I have a brand new perspective on what a stay-at-home parent’s life is like. It’s hard. Your whole day just revolves around diagnosing what this little human wants. You have all these plans for chores you’ll get done or things you want to do, and none of it happens. It’s exhausting work, but it also has a lot of amazing moments that I’ll be able to treasure forever. Having my wife right around the corner is nice too, because I’ll pop in with Calvin so that we can enjoy a minute or two giggling together before leaving her to the privacy of her office. On a related note, I now wear about four outfits a day.

The biggest highlight has definitely been the overall picture of Calvin’s development. I get to see the whole picture being home, and that’s pretty cool!

EL: We also discussed how teaching remotely was a relatively unfulfilling experience for you, and I'm curious if there's any news or updates in regard to your situation as a teacher for the upcoming school year? What are you expecting, and how do you feel about the different options?

CB: My school corporation is currently planning to meet in person starting on time. All kids and adults will wear masks at all times other than when eating. All classrooms have to look very different. Removal of all non-essential furniture, desks spread out, in rows only. There is a stay-at-home option. Only 3.5 percent of students have signed up for that option, and the deadline to sign up for that [was this past Friday]. It’s going to be wild, but I assume I’ll have the quietest classroom I’ve ever experienced, and I’ll see a lot less nosepicking, hopefully!

EL: We’ll get to ultimate shortly, but can you share the story behind you wanting to be a teacher? Is there a specific moment or time in your life where the desire to become a teacher took over your long-term thinking or life plan?

CB: I’ve always had great relationships with my teachers—except for you, Ms. Powley; you still terrify me. Being an only child—I do have a half brother, but we did not live together—and having only one cousin until I was 10, I was used to conversing with adults a lot. They were usually the only people around. So I always felt really comfortable striking up conversations with my teachers about stuff outside of school. Those relationships had me always thinking about teaching in the back of my mind, but I decided to pursue a journalism career, focusing on sports. After my first internship, I decided it wasn’t for me. So I decided to go to grad school for higher education at Northern Illinois, where I met their ultimate captain, Jimmy Sykora; Hi Jimmy! That didn’t pan out either, and I left early in my first semester. After a year of waiting tables and trying to figure out what to do, I decided to attend IUPUI for grad school, focusing on elementary education. Including my student teaching, I’ve taught grades two, five, seven, nine, 10, 11, and 12. I can say with great conviction that teaching high school was my least favorite, though there were bright spots to each and every class I taught.

EL: Alright, moving onto ultimate, let's start here: how in the world do you have 218 more goals than anyone else in the history of the league? Obviously, health, longevity, and role are all factors, but it's still a crazy gap between you and the next highest goal-scorer on the all-time record list... Are you as flabbergasted as I am that only four other players in AUDL history even have as many as half the number of goals you have?

CB: This question requires such a long answer… and I’m going to give part of it to you. This is a question I get asked a lot and have reflected on a lot.

All the things you mentioned have, of course, been crucial. There’s also this list of attributes that have certainly helped!

- Fast
- Quick/agile
- Good timing
- Good in the air
- Conditioned

I could write for a while on this topic, but in order to keep it relatively short, the makeup of your team certainly dictates your scoring opportunities. In short, the fewer scoring threats you have, the more you rely on the ones you do have. Golden State was a prime example of this, right? They had 3 guys that could go for 30 every game. They didn’t need to, but they could! Put that up against the early LeBron Cavs teams where it was basically just him as a scorer. That’s how I feel about my team now vs. back in 2013. So many scoring threats. Who are you going to guard? You already did one of these interviews with Levi [Jacobs], one where [Kevin Pettit-Scantling] mentioned in a tweet or in the article that they tried to not focus on Levi so they could help on others. He torched them. We didn’t have that before. I got everyone’s best defender in every game and there was usually help off the top as well.

If you take a look at our cutting core for 2013, the year I set the then-record in goals, I was cutting with David Valentine-Elam, Keenan Plew, and Jared Payne. All three were fantastic throwers. All three had limitations as cutters. DVE wasn’t overly agile or fast. Keenan had the speed and quickness, but lacked height. Jared’s best cutting days were behind him, with injuries starting to pile up. It was essentially me and six handlers on the field. Keenan was really the only other goal scoring threat, but he was often involved in our initiation plays. So I was put in a situation that not only enabled to me score goals with all these great throwers around, but also relied on me to score because there wasn’t really anyone else to do it. To put up the insane numbers that people like me, AJ Nelson, Mischa Freystaetter, Ethan Beardsley, and Quentin Bonnaud have put up—I know there are others, but these come to mind—you have to be in some very specific circumstances. I think all of us had a couple of things in common, being that we were clearly the number one cutting option, we had people willing to put the disc up to us with little to no space between us and a defender, and our teams just lacked explosive scoring options outside of us. I will say there is an exception to Beardsley in that regard, having Tyler DeGirolamo on his team, but that guy was also rocketing insane assist numbers. 

There’s a lot more that goes into it, but purely from a scoring goals perspective, I think team makeup has a ton to do with it. I do think I’m an elite cutter when it comes purely to getting open. I don’t believe anyone can guard me. And I don’t mean that in a cocky “everyone sucks” kind of way. I think there is a line between cockiness and confidence. Cockiness is thinking of others as worse than you. Confidence is believing you can overcome the obstacles in front of you. And I think you have to have that confidence, that swagger, to be great at getting open. You have to believe you’ve won every matchup before it has even started and set out to prove that over and over again throughout the course of a game. I could write an essay on the art of getting open, particularly in AUDL games due to the length of the game and how you can set your defender up early for cuts you want to make later in the game. But that’s probably a video or something for another day.

EL: Obviously, the numbers are what they are--and you're also 10th in assists all-time--but beyond the numbers, I'm wondering how you feel you are perceived as a player around the league, and even by me? Despite your statistical superiority, there's definitely a narrative, fair or unfair, that perpetuates the idea that you perform your role very well but Keenan Plew and Travis Carpenter and maybe Rick Gross have been the top stars on the AlleyCats through the years; I'm obviously not asking you to bash any of your teammates, but I'm genuinely curious if you feel slighted by a lack of respect, either from me or from opponents or ultimate media?

CB: I’ve actually got a pretty funny story related to this. In 2015 I decided to play with Liquid Hustle for club, a local mixed team. A guy on the team, David Stierwalt, became a good friend of mine by the end of the season. He and his now wife, Lizzie, had gone to several 'Cats games, but we had never met. David told me that before I played LH he thought I was just a cherry picker that did nothing but run deep and wait for the disc to be thrown to me. After guarding me in practices and watching me during tournaments, he commented that he didn’t realize how much I was actually doing when I was cutting. The condition I needed to be in, the constant movement, the taking two defenders so that someone else could get open easier. He told me he had it all wrong before. He had basically just accepted a narrative that had been made about me.

In general, people that have never played against me say I suck at ultimate. People that I have played against time and time again have told me they respect me as a player. I’ve been told about some absolute gems on reddit threads/facebook posts/etc. where people really like to take digs at me. It is what it is. I’m somewhere between pretty good and sucks. As long as people respect me as a competitor and person, I’m less concerned with how they perceive me as a player.

EL: What do you remember about the first goal you ever caught in the AUDL? And what do you most remember about the 500th goal you caught during the Game of the Week against Chicago last July? Is there a single goal between number one and number 500 that stands out the most?

CB: I most remember that I dropped my first potential goal in the AUDL. A no-look pass from Brodie Smith from about 10 feet away on a chilly, rainy, windy night in Columbus, OH. I actually threw the first assist in team history, which I find funny. All I remember about that first game is the electric feeling I had every time I scored. I had never spiked a disc before, but found myself spiking it over and over again during that game. Nobody in the league had any clue who I was, and I definitely used that to my advantage. 

The 500th goal was a special one. The biggest thing about that goal was the way the crowd reacted. They gave me a standing ovation. After the game, a lot of people that were there came down to the field to get pictures with me and congratulate me. It really was a cool moment. I got to share it with a lot of people that have supported me for a long time now. Can’t ask for more than that.

There are lots of goals that stick out in my mind from over the years. There’s a couple of YouTube clips from year one, like my plays that made it on SportsCenter, or the long-jump catch that Brodie posted on his Everything Ultimate channel. But two really stick out, for completely different reasons. Both were in Madison.

The first was in 2013 when I passed AJ Nelson to take the league lead in goals scored. It was the last game of the season, and Chicago had no more games left, so it secured the scoring title for me. The announcer at the stadium shared that I had set a new record for goals in a season, and the Madison crowd gave me a very warm reception. I thought that was really cool, for a city that is so passionate about their ultimate to show respect for an opponent. 

The second was in our playoff game in 2014, which you, Chuck, and Megan broadcasted [on ESPN3]. There’s a clip of it on the AUDL page, where Jason Cheek throws an I/O backhand all the way across the field to me. Peter Graffy was back there playing monster in their zone. Graffy has rubbed a lot of people in Indy the wrong way over the years—though I’d say less so in more recent years—and grabbing that disc with him trying to grab it away felt really good. It also was in the middle of a comeback that we were mounting, so there was a lot of adrenaline flowing. Chuck dubbed me the "White Michael Jordan" during that game, and I still have friends/teammates in Indy that call me “White Mike”. It makes me laugh every time.

EL: You’re at 504 goals now, and you're still just 31 years old. Is there another individual milestone you're hunting? Obviously, your goal-scoring ceiling is perhaps the least-important impact of the pandemic, but if I gave you an over/under of 750, do you think you will finish your career above or below that number?

CB: The season seems to constantly be getting shorter—amount of games, clock changes— and I don’t see it getting longer any time soon. If anything, I could see more rules being made to shorten the game, so 750 doesn’t really feel like it’s in the cards. But I plan to play until I physically can’t anymore or I’m asked to leave because I suck. I would really love to see a season where I complete 97 percent of my passes. Last year I think was somewhere around 93 percent. I do struggle in the colder weather, and I had four turns in our coldest weather games, basically the difference between my 93 percent and 97 percent goal. Catching is fine, but throwing for me in cold/windy weather is actually the worst. And the April/May games in the Midwest are unpredictable. The most important thing I can do for my team is maintain possession. It’s not about goals or assists. I had 100 percent catching percentage last year, something I look to continue, so it’s all about the throwing now.

EL: I know we've discussed it before, but can you quickly share your ultimate origin story? What sports did you play growing up, when did you discover ultimate, and when did your passion for chasing plastic really blossom?

CB: I played everything I could growing up. Basketball, baseball, football, track, soccer. When I got to high school I lettered all four years in track and soccer. I played one year of college soccer at Franklin College, a small D-III school, before transferring away. After graduating high school, I still went to my high school soccer practices to stay in shape for the college season. I would go straight from practice to playing pickup ultimate with some guys that used our practice field when we were done. It was a great way to stay in shape, but it was nothing organized. 

When I quit soccer and transferred schools, I considered trying out for the Purdue ultimate team, but I was told by a friend that I would never cut it. So I didn’t go. I transferred yet again to Ball State and saw a couple of guys throwing a disc. I recognized one from a tournament I played in with some high school friends at a local church in Lafayette. His name was Matt Johnson. He was throwing with Hans Rasmussen, a future Cats O-line player with me. I was invited to practice. By the end of the first practice I was invited to their next tournament to play with the A team. I had low expectations for competitive ultimate, but I showed up to my first tournament, college sectionals, and saw more than 30 teams slinging discs around. It was so intense. I really fell in love with the sport in our second game, which was against North Park. They were seeded very high in our sectional, and we were seeded something like 13th. Our game ended up going to [universe point], and the sidelines were completely packed with people from other teams that couldn’t believe we were hanging with North Park. I got my first bookends in front of that crowd, and they were all doing our “Wiz” cheer. It was such a rush. I probably scored more goals than anyone on our team that tournament, or at least was close to the top, and it was my first time playing. So I felt like I might have a knack for the sport. I also really enjoyed hanging out with those guys, so it seemed like a natural fit.

EL: There aren't too many players who've prioritized professional ultimate over college ultimate, but back in 2011 and 2012, you made the choice to focus on making the AlleyCats and preparing yourself for the AUDL instead of enjoying your college ultimate experience. Why did you make this decision and have you ever had any regrets at all about skipping out on the college ultimate experience that is treasured by so many?

CB: Well, my decision felt like it was more made FOR me than BY me. It was the first year of professional ultimate, so there were a lot of things to consider. One of those things was “Will this exist for more than a year?” That was a real concern! So making it the first year seemed vitally important. Also, we had graduated so many people in 2011 from Ball State. We knew 2012 was going to be a down year, so it just didn’t seem as important to me to be there all the time. So many of my teammates I loved playing with were gone, and the team was in a bit of disarray. Commitment levels team-wide were not what they used to be, and that was frustrating as someone who wanted to be very committed.

I also didn’t feel very confident in making the 2012 AlleyCats at all. I shared with you that I almost didn’t even go to tryouts. I figured I’d be wasting my time. Then at the tryouts we spent the first hour or so just doing different drills/skills contests. A lot of them involved throwing, which I sucked at. I remember we had one drill where we just stood about 40 yards out from the end zone and they wanted us to throw backhands and forehands into different areas of the end zone. When I stepped up, the wind picked up tremendously. I just looked over at the coach and shook my head. He told me he’d take the wind into account. Boy did I not feel good about that. 

We had tryouts almost every weekend from January-March, so naturally there were tournament conflicts. They would cut people a few at a time and I kept making the cut, but I always thought the next round of cuts would be when I got kicked out. I actually used to make a list every time they did cuts, ranking everyone that was still left. I always had about 40 guys ahead of me. So I never felt comfortable making the top 28. All in all, there is really only one tournament I wish I would have gone to that I didn’t, and that’s T-town Throwdown. That was the first year we went, and it would have been a lot of fun. But I secured a roster spot, so it was worth it.

EL: If we remove all current and former AlleyCats from eligibility, who have been your favorite AUDL players to watch through the years, and why? Perhaps players you've gone up against or maybe just guys you've appreciated viewing from afar?

CB: I’ll give you three. [Ed. note: It's actually four]

Max Sheppard—The guy is an absolute stud. I could see it his first year playing, even though he didn’t have the same level of responsibility. He just made plays. He was always open. Making good throws. And he was so young. Adding Thomas Edmonds last year allowed Max to reach an entirely different level. It was like a cheat code got put in the game. He does everything at an elite level, and it honestly feels like there is nothing you can do about it half the time.

Kevin Pettit-Scantling—I don’t know if people know how much this guy has evolved since 2013. My first interaction with him that I remember is him skying me for a buzzer-beating goal in the third quarter of our first ever matchup with Madison. It was one of those where you think nobody else is around, so you kinda lazily go for the disc, and then KPS comes out of nowhere over my shoulder to catch it. Back then, much like I was in 2012, he was very one-dimensional. He’s grown so much. I’ve seen him cover everyone on our team, from Keenan to Rick and everything in between. We played a game against them where they were short-handed once and I think he played something like 35 points. His greatest asset is his will to do whatever it takes to win. I still wear his jersey during workouts regularly to motivate me to lift more, run faster, and push myself harder. I think we share a similar sentiment, though I’ve never talked to him about it, which is that we both really grew up in the AUDL. We were nobodies, and teams taking chances on us turned us into somebodies. I think we both needed people to take a chance on us, and we both were willing to do whatever was asked of us. I feel a special kinship with him in that way.

Johnny Bansfield—I was going to go out of division for the last one, but man, I just couldn’t leave this guy off the list. I have never seen anyone be so individually dominant in an ultimate game before. We had a game up in Detroit where it felt like he accounted for just about every score they had. He caught discs he had no business catching. He made throws that blew my mind. I will watch any and all Johnny Bansfield highlights. It’s been a pleasure to play against him in the AUDL and club over the years. I pulled out of [Michigan-based club team] High Five tryouts back in 2014. It was the right decision for me personally, but I think it would have been a blast being his teammate.

Matt Smith—I had to go out of division for at least one, and this guy blows my mind. I always joke that I don’t look athletic. Matt doesn’t either. But that guy has a speed and quickness that is unrivaled. And everything I hear about him is that he works his butt off. It was great being able to finally see him in person last year when we played, minus the losing part. He was a real jerk for beating us.

EL: Lastly, considering you're an English teacher, I'll ask you what are your three favorite books of all-time? You can go with books that've been part of a school curriculum or anything you've especially enjoyed outside of school, but what's at the top of the list?

CB: Ready Player OneI love everything about this book. Video games. 80s references. Technology. Love it. 

Anything by Ray Bradbury—The guy is an absolute wizard. I swear he was sent back from the future to warn everyone what would come of the world.

Teaching favorite (so far): Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: I mentioned this in our IG chat. The book I thought was just “ok”. I think that says more about me than the book. It’s written in verse, which is not a way I really enjoy reading. The actually material though… it’s heavy, particularly for seventh graders. We had so many great conversations last year and really challenging ones too. We read a lot of great paired texts with it that enhance the messages/themes in the book. We had classroom discussions that were more mature than the ones I was having in high school. I can’t wait to teach it again this year, particularly given what’s happening in the world.