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Miami’s Cam McCormick is back for a ninth college season. Yes, nine.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Miami's Cam McCormick, “and I’m glad that this happened to me, rather than somebody else, because I know that I’m mentally strong.” (Doug Murray/AP)
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As Cam McCormick put it, he has “earned the opportunity to be able to play my four years of college football.”

And even if those four years happen to be spread out over a nine-year span — something the University of Miami described as “unprecedented” — the Hurricanes tight end said he is perfectly content with how his injury-marred athletic journey has played out.

“I’ll have been in college for nine years, yes,” McCormick, 25, said Thursday evening. “Is that what I wanted to do when I got to college? No! But everything happens for a reason, and I’m glad that this happened to me, rather than somebody else, because I know that I’m mentally strong. I’ve overcome those struggles that I’ve had to deal with to get to where I am today, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

When McCormick announced earlier Thursday that he was coming back for a second season with Miami, after seven at Oregon, it put him in uncharted territory for the Football Bowl Subdivision.

According to the NCAA, McCormick’s 2023 season had tied him with former Northern Illinois linebacker Kyle Pugh, whose eight years of eligibility ended in 2022, for the longest such run in the FBS. Eastern Tennessee State, which competes in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision, asserts that the college career linebacker Jared Folks notched from 2014 to 2021 made him the “NCAA’s first-ever eight-year student-athlete to compete in a single sport.”

As with Folks and Pugh, McCormick was able to extend his college career not only with an extra year the NCAA allowed most competitors who dealt with the pandemic-scrambled 2020 season, but also through waivers granted by athletic conferences in acknowledgment of his major injuries.

After sitting out his first year at Oregon following an ACL tear during his senior season in high school, McCormick played in 13 games in 2017 as a redshirt freshman, then suffered a broken left leg and torn ankle ligament in the first game of the following season. McCormick needed three surgeries to fully address those injuries, which sidelined him until 2021. In the second game of that season, he tore the Achilles’ tendon in his right leg.

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For his efforts in finally getting back on the field in 2022, McCormick won that year’s Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. After transferring to Miami in 2023 — following former Ducks coach Mario Cristobal, who took over the Hurricanes the year before — McCormick managed to play a full season for the second straight time. While his combined production of 18 catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns over that span appears modest, Cristobal said McCormick made major contributions as an example to his teammates.

“Cam is an amazing young man of service, a great athlete, hard worker, and a natural-born leader,” Cristobal said in a statement Thursday. “His return is a testament to his character and the values he brings to our team. We are excited to have him back for the upcoming season.”

The 2024 season will be Justin Herbert’s fifth as quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers, which is notable because he and McCormick both arrived in Oregon with the 2016 recruiting class. McCormick said Thursday that playing in the NFL is still his goal but that his appreciation for Cristobal’s Miami program was a strong factor in his decision to return.

“The coaching staff, the coaches who were at Oregon when I was there, they knew my injuries then and they stuck by my side and they believed in me,” he said. “They kept pushing me and they showed how much they truly care about me, and ultimately, loyalty goes a long way.”

“Everyone develops their game over the course of four years,” McCormick added, “and that’s still what I’m doing. So I feel like having another year, and showing [the NFL] I can be healthy, is important.”

Having earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree during his seven years at Oregon, McCormick said he was using his time at Miami to “further my knowledge in the business field” and learn more about “certain areas that can help me out in the future.”

McCormick has also overcome challenges presented by auditory processing disorder. He said the hearing condition, which makes it difficult for him to focus on listening to something specific amid ambient or background noises, has been an issue at times both in the classroom and in the huddle.

Drawing on his experiences with ADP, McCormick said he wants to support the football team at Gallaudet University, an institution in Washington, D.C., that focuses on furthering the educational and professional interests of the deaf and signing community. In a news release Thursday, Miami said McCormick plans to make a “significant donation” to Gallaudet’s program.

In the wake of the widespread notice McCormick’s announcement Thursday garnered — “I’m making history,” he said — what he’s not going to do is allow critics to deter him from carving out a unique path in college football.

“I’ve been in my darkest place, I’ve overcome adversity to be where I am today,” he said, “and I’m not going to let somebody tell me what I can and cannot do with my opportunities that I’m blessed with.”