Tripp headed to Harvard
High school sports can lead to life-changing opportunities, and it happens year after year in Union County.
Duke University, one of the most respected academic institutions in the nation, currently has more than $1.2 million dollars invested in full scholarships for five Union County football products.
Union County will have eight football players on scholarship in the ACC in 2014, and they helped pave the way for those coming behind them.
Cameron Tripp just took it to another level.
The rising senior at Piedmont High is going to play football at Harvard University.
He was presented the opportunity by the Harvard coaching staff on Tuesday and after mulling it over with his parents on Thursday night, accepted on Friday around 10 a.m.
"It's too good of an opportunity to pass up," Tripp said. "If you walk in the room with a Harvard degree, people are going to listen to you. It's one of the best schools in the country, in the world. Harvard is a dream school."
U.S. News & World Report ranks Harvard as the second-best college education in the nation behind Princeton. Duke is tied for seventh on the list with MIT and Penn.
Tripp, a 6-foot-6 quarterback, turned down a full scholarship to play football at Alabama Birmingham, and could have opted for all-expenses-paid offers to play basketball for The Citadel or West Point.
Tripp called the coaches from those schools shortly after he gave his word to Harvard.
"That was hard," Tripp said, "but everybody took it well and they were understanding."
Tripp said there was no hesitation about turning down full scholarship offers to UAB and The Citadel to go to Harvard, which will cost more than $60,000 per year.
The Ivy League plays Division I sports, but does not award any athletic scholarships.
"We understand that's a hurdle, but they do a lot of grant money, and they do low-interest student loans," Tripp said. "The money isn't really an issue. My parents have said they will pay as much as they can, and whatever they can't I will get student loans. … I have the full support of my parents."
How it happened
Ryan Crawford is entering his third season as the defensive backs coach at Harvard, and his recruiting region includes North Carolina.
Crawford was among the steady stream of recruiters who have been evaluating Tripp this spring.
"It was just a quarterback, running back workout that day," Tripp recalled. "Coach Crawford just wanted to see if I was what I said I was: 6-6, 215 and a 4.7 in the 40."
Tripp was invited up to the Cambridge, Mass., campus for a one-day camp on June 14.
"I performed really well," Tripp said. "I ran a 4.37 shuttle time which really impressed them."
By comparison, South Carolina QB Connor Shaw was clocked at 4.33 seconds and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas had a 4.61 shuttle time at the 2014 NFL Combine.
Tripp says Harvard's offensive scheme is similar to what Piedmont runs and a good fit for his skill set.
"They run the gun, and they want you to be able to take off with it once in a while," Tripp said. "Their system fits me almost perfectly as a player. … I owe a lot to (Piedmont) Coach (Ron) Massey for making me into a runner. I give him a lot of credit. He's taught me a lot about the game."
Tripp's Dad, Dennis (who played defensive line for UNC and the New York Giants), got in from a work-related flight out of town about 10:30 Thursday night. Cameron, Dennis and Melanie, his Mom, sat in the living room together for an hour discussing it.
"We did a list of pros and cons and there were no negatives for Harvard," Tripp said. "Other than the cold Boston weather. That might be hard on a Southern boy."
Tripp and his Dad flew up to Boston the night before the football camp, and on the return flight home he had a gut feeling Harvard was his destiny.
While there, they spent some time in Boston and also got a tour of the yard.
"When we were on campus I was so impressed," Tripp said. "I was like 'Whoa, this is where I need to be.' Some of the players were showing us around. When you think of Harvard you think of smart, snobby people, but these guys were truly, genuinely nice people. They're academically motivated and that's something I'm looking for."
Tripp said his current GPA is 4.67 (based on a 5.0 weighted scale) and he scored a 1730 on the SAT. Based on his transcript and standardized test scores, the Harvard coaching staff told Tripp "they should have no problem getting me in school."
Tripp maintains his goal of being an orthopedic surgeon one day "but I also understand I'm a 17-year-old kid and what I want to do now may not be what I want to do when I get there. That's one of the great things about going to Harvard. No matter what I do it's going to be a highly-respected degree."
… Harvard's football team won the Ivy League championship in 2013 and has won the conference title six of the last 13 years.
… Eight U.S. Presidents have graduated from Harvard, the most of any university, including: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes (law school), John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt , George W. Bush (MBA) and Barack Obama (law school).
… Harvard football coach Tim Murphy has been in charge for 20 years and has put together 12 straight winning seasons. His teams have won the Ivy League at least once every four years, meaning all the players he's brought in have had a chance to taste a title. Tripp said that appealed to his competitive spirit.
U.S. News & Wolrd Report's
National University Rankings
1. Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
2. Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
3. Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)
4. Columbia University (New York City)
t5. Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)
t5. University of Chicago (Illinois)
t7. Duke University (Durham, N.C.)
t7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Ma.)
t7. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pa.)
t10. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, Calif)
t10. Darmouth College (Hanover, N.H.)