The start of the Mississippi Raiders arena football team was not only a new source of entertainment for local sports fans, but it has also created a second chance for two former high school standouts.
For Oak Grove alum Cameron Myers and Hattiesburg alum Joronnie Hinton, the opportunity to play football again almost seemed too good to be true after not playing competitive football for several years. Both had been searching, waiting and hoping to find a chance to play almost anywhere.
Myers helped guide Oak Grove to the 2014 state title as a dual-threat quarterback. Myers threw 2,478 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior year and ran for 777 yards and 11 touchdowns. Myers switched to cornerback as he attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then later transferred to Eastern Arizona College.
Like Myers, Hinton had a fair share of success in his senior year of high school back in 2014 at wide receiver as he made 52 catches and caught 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns. He later played at Pearl River Community College for two seasons and then Cumberland University. In his senior year in 2018, Hinton hauled in 44 catches for 712 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both continued to stay in shape, work out and stay ready for any opportunity that came across them.
Hinton is chasing his dream of playing in the NFL and had some opportunities after college. He played in the Podyum College All-Star Bowl, a senior bowl game to help players from smaller schools earn professional exposure, and tried out at several combines.
“I wasn’t completely out of it, but I was working out every day,” Hinton said. “I was keeping my strength up. As far as football-wise, I was doing ladder drills, cone drills, all of them. I was really waiting for any (professional) opportunity to present itself.
“This keeps me in a game I love. That’s the main thing about it. I love football so much that without it, I just get into a mental state that I don’t like. When I was in college, I used to say to myself that I would never play arena football. That goes to show to never say never.”
For Myers, the Raiders have provided him with a second chance as he has not played organized football since 2016. At 6-foot-1, Myers switched from quarterback to cornerback in college because he and his college coaches felt it would have given him a better chance to further his career.
“I’m just trying to make a comeback,” Myers said. “You have to take advantage of it. It’s a second chance. I thought it was over. This was all I did, just playing football since I was a little kid. After going to college, people said I couldn’t play anywhere.
“I knew my best shot of getting to the next level was playing defensive back because everyone talks about my size. I was trying to play where they wanted to put me at. I’m good at it, and I never complain about playing (quarterback or defensive back).”
At first, Myers did not want to try out for the arena team, but after some convincing from close friends, he opted to try it and then texted Hinton about the opportunity, who saw a post about the tryouts on Facebook.
“Me and Cam grew up together,” Hinton said. “From the fifth grade on up, I’ve been knowing Cam. We grew up together. He was one of the first ones that came to me about it.
“Cam texted me and said, ‘C’mon, let’s go and do this. We aren’t doing anything else.’ At that point, I thought I might as well.”
Hinton made the team as a wide receiver while Myers was switched back to quarterback.
Both Hinton and Myers find indoor football to be much different and more physical compared to the traditional game.
“It’s football, but it’s different,” Hinton said. “You are not going to play it like you would on an outdoor field. It’s a smaller field. You wouldn’t approach it as you would in outdoor football because the field is so much smaller. You run your routes different. You run your routes at different depths. It’s just a different atmosphere.”
Myers even saw action in the team’s first game after the Raiders’ starting quarterback went down with an injury.
“I don’t think Cam knows his own potential at quarterback,” Raiders football coach James Germany said. “Cam is coming along right now. He is turning into a darn good quarterback. The players love him, and they have a lot of faith in him like I do. I know he’s going to do the job.
“When I found out he could throw the ball and has good throwing skills to go along with his athleticism, that was a no-brainer.”
Hinton did not suit up in the first game, but it was what he called a valuable learning experience.
“(Hinton) came up to me and said, ‘Thank you. I had a chance to watch before just being thrown in the fire,’” Germany said. “I’ll tell you this: he will be suiting up for me from this point on because sitting out from that game, he understood what I was trying to do and what I was trying to teach him. Now he plays at a higher level than most people that got their start.”
According to Hinton, having Myers on the sidelines with him has helped him grow his understanding of the game.
“It makes it easier because we know each other, and we know each other’s abilities,” Hinton said. “Him as a player can tell me what he is looking for. I know him, so I can do what he wants. It’s pretty much helping each other.
“The quarterback can usually see the whole field. What he sees, he can tell me and fix what I was doing so that I can get the timing on point.”
For Germany, he has faith that both players have the skills and talent to have successful careers in arena football.
“One thing I do like about (Hinton), and it’s the same thing with Cam is that they listen,” Germany said. “They take it in. They go out and do it, but the way they do it is put their own touch to it, which makes a good player. You get people that coach says put yourself in that position and make your own thing out of it.
“When I first saw them, I thought that these guys have some talent. I still have to groom them and get them ready for arena football, but they have a base already. Once you have the base, the rest is easy. Their future in arena football depends on them. They can go far.”
The Mississippi Raiders will play host the Carolina Predators at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday.