WATERLOO | Cam Winters couldn't wait to get started. He wasn't alone.
The aspiring football player was among a handful of athletes that had already made their way into the Cedar Valley SportsPlex 11:45 Saturday morning -- over an hour prior to a 1 p.m. tryout for the area's newest semi-professional football team.
Just over four years removed from serving as a linebacker and running back for a Waterloo East squad that ended his school's 19-year playoff drought in the fall of 2010, Winters is at the age when many former collegiate athletes are hanging up their cleats.
His football journey, however, may be just getting started.
"The love for football, it's like a passion for me," Winters said. "I've always been big on football since I was younger and watching football with my uncles. I got into the game and I just never lost the love for it."
Back in the game
This summer Winters figures to be one of the potential playmakers for an upstart East Iowa Storm team that will play its home games at Independence High School's Leinbaugh Field.
A year ago, the former East standout returned to the sport when he served as a running back for the Waterloo-based Cedar Valley Charge, a semi-pro football team that folded after one season.
There were some games during the Charge's winless campaign in which Winters scored the only touchdown. Yet, it was still an experience he treasured.
"It was a good opportunity getting to play with some guys from high school and other people in the community from other places," Winters recalled. "It was a learning experience for all of us.
"The Charge, even though we didn't go out there and execute or win every game, at the end of the day we were still a team. We all played together as a team. Whatever happened, it was always a team. Now we move forward with another team."
Upon graduation from high school, Winters originally played a season of football at Iowa Central Community College before life pulled him in a different direction.
"I ended up having a child so I moved back and now I'm working," said Winters, who works a second-shift job at Tyson. "I had to sacrifice what I was."
In between work and spending time with his daughter, Nivea, the driven Waterloo-native has found some time to lift weights and complete running workouts. Winters was even offered a chance to play for a professional indoor team in Bemidji last summer, but couldn't leave his job and family.
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The bruising running back says he'd still like to drop a couple pounds from his current muscular 5-foot-9, 245-pound frame, but he feels Saturday's tryout went about has well as he could have anticipated.
Winters was among an estimated 80-plus athletes ranging from ages 18-to-44 with varied skill levels who made the trek to Waterloo in hopes of earning a roster spot to remain active in the sport they love. Some traveled from as far away as Iowa Falls, Mason City and Dubuque, while many of the those trying out had ties to the Cedar Valley.
Winters says he talked some of his former high school teammates into trying out, while he was also surprised to see a couple of his former Iowa Central teammates inside the SportsPlex.
Greeting several of his friends with firm handshakes and hugs, Winters is already looking forward to the upcoming season. He knew several of those in attendance Saturday from his time with the Charge, and says a few potential members of the team have already been meeting up for workouts.
"I'm looking to just play as a team," Winters said. "Having guys that are dedicated instead of come in and sometimes playing and sometimes they don't feel like it. I'm looking forward to having a winning season and inspire those in the community."
Storm owner and head coach Tim Cummings modeled Saturday's tryout after the NFL combine. Participants broke into four groups where they completed a 40-yard sprint, along with short shuttle and three cone agility drills, and a broad jump.
The combine portion of the tryout was followed by some positional drills as well.
Winters says his 40 time was a tenth quicker than his goal, while his footwork appeared ahead of most during the shuttle and three-cone.
If the workout wore Winters down, he didn't show it. The sight of his daughter and girlfriend kept his smile from fading by day's end.
Winters says he was impressed by the depth that was revealed at the skill positions on Saturday. The Storm's Midwest Football League allows for the team to fill a roster of 65 with 55 players available to dress.
The team will be announced in a couple weeks with the season slated to begin May 30 in Omaha.
"It all starts with us," Winters said, looking forward to the team's next challenge. "What we do determines what we can make of it."