Newport News, Va., isn’t a whole a lot like Cranston, R.I.
As it turns out, that’s the reason Angel Camilo is here in the first place.
Camilo, a senior defensive back at Cranston East, knows first-hand what life is like in both places – and just how different they are.
It was last summer when Camilo transferred to East from Woodside High School in Newport News, an area most well known for being the city where controversial Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick grew up. Camilo had moved up to Rhode Island to live with his uncle, Roberto, and the hope was that everything would be a little bit better.
Things weren’t great before.
“Newport News is two streets parallel to each other that run through the city,” Camilo said. “Everybody really knows each other and knows what you do and knows what you have. It’s a lot of violence and robberies and killings out there.”
Camilo lived with his mother in Virginia, and it was she who came up with the idea to have Camilo live with his uncle, her brother.
“Me and my mom weren’t really seeing eye to eye with things,” Camilo said. “She felt like I wasn’t really focused at the school I was at, and the people I was hanging out with. I guess you could say trouble used to find me a lot. She was really concerned, so she decided to move me to Rhode Island with her brother.”
For someone who had spent his life in one spot, and had already completed two years of high school, the idea didn’t immediately sound very exciting.
In fact, even though his mom and he had been talking about it for a year prior to the move – and they had even visited Cranston once as a precursor – he still couldn’t fathom it actually happening.
“I never imagined I would be living here and actually like living here,” Camilo said.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
He got away from the problems he had in Virginia, and used his playing experience from his time in Newport News – where he had played for nine years – and joined the East football team during two-a-day practices last August.
Almost immediately, Camilo became a well-liked member of the team.
His talent was evident, as he had grown up playing in a state with some of the best athletes in the country. That being said, however, his attitude was what caught everyone’s attention.
“He really did a nice job coming in and being comfortable with everybody,” East head coach Tom Centore said. “Personality-wise he fit in well with everybody. He really did a nice job.”
Camilo slotted in at defensive back, where he routinely locked down opposing receivers. He allowed just a handful of receptions against him the entire year.
More importantly, though, he helped better his life.
His grades are up, and his entire outlook has changed.
“Now, I feel like it was a good idea for me to move down here,” he said. “I’m more focused with everything – my schoolwork, my sports. I think it was the best move for me.”
When track season came around, Camilo set the school record in the 55-meter hurdles, qualified for New Englands and was named second team All-State.
This football season, after working hard over the spring and summer, Centore named him a captain of the team.
“He became such a leader that we actually decided to add him in,” Centore said. “He got a lot of votes last year, but we felt that he was deserving after his effort over the spring and summer.”
Camilo had continued his work as a shutdown corner for the ’Bolts this season before hurting his foot two weeks ago against Hendricken. He missed last week’s game with East Providence, but expects to play this week against Tolman.
He’s also rotated in at wide receiver, and he recorded his first touchdown with East in the team’s second game of the season, against Portsmouth.
“He scored his first high school touchdown against Portsmouth, so he was all excited about that,” Centore said.
And his success on and off the field has opened up doors that most likely would have stayed closed had he not left Newport News.
He’s planning on attending college, and he’s looked at places ranging from UMass-Dartmouth to the University of Rhode Island.
His mom came up to visit this past weekend, for her birthday, and the two of them toured the URI campus. On Saturday, he took in the Rams’ game against Old Dominion University – a school in Virginia.
“I knew some kids on the (ODU) team,” Camilo said. “I went to the game, it was a real good experience. The whole atmosphere, the college life – I enjoyed it.”
He’s even hoping to play sports in college, and he has had some contact with football coaches at URI. Between his talent on the gridiron and on the track – plus his academic performance – playing one or even both sports is a distinct possibility.
And he’s grateful.
“It would have been rough for me to adjust (to college up here) if I stayed in Newport News,” Camilo said. “The lifestyle down there is kind of hectic. The city is rough, it’s real rough.”
In the meantime, he’ll try to help East football pick up a win and get on the right track this week against Tolman.
Luckily, he’s already gotten himself on that track.
“He came here and he’s just done really, really well for us,” Camilo said. “He’s just a terrific kid, a good student. He really, really has done well for us.”