Iowa football commit Cam Buffington preparing for 2021 with Winfield-Mount Union High School
WINFIELD — It isn't often when the University of Iowa decides to build an entire recruiting class around one player.
Then again, it isn't often when a player of Cam Buffington's unlimited ability comes along, either.
Buffington, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore at Winfield-Mount Union High School, is the crowned jewel of the 2024 recruiting class for the University of Iowa football team. One camp was all it took to convince the Hawkeyes that Buffington was a player they want to build their defense of the future around.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s crazy, I know, but it hasn’t really fully hit me yet that I’m going to play for the Hawkeyes. It’s crazy," said Buffington, who will play quarterback and linebacker this season for the Wolves. “I’m not going to make it different for me. I’m just going to play my game. If I mess up, I’m human. I’ll just go on to the next play. Just play my game.”
"He went to an Iowa State camp first," W-MU head football coach Scott McCarty said. "He went to an Iowa camp and Iowa offered him on the spot. On the first night of camp I got a call from (Iowa offensive coordinator) Brian Ferentz. He said, 'Cam is exactly what we want as an Iowa football player. He has two or three years left to develop. If he commits to us, we will design our entire recruiting class around him.' I was like, 'Why him?' But if you look at him, he's a sophomore who looks and acts like a senior. He checks all of the boxes they are looking for."
Buffington comes from an athletic gene pool. His father, Ross Buffington, played on the 1994 Winfield-Mount Union football team which finished as the Class A state runner-up, losing to West Bend-Mallard, 16-15, in overtime. His mother, Stacey (Thomas) Buffington, was a multi-sport star at Wapello during her high school days.
Cam Buffington is looking to far surpass his parents' achievements.
“(My Mom) actually went to state track. She went to state softball. She held a record in Wapello in track. It just got beat this past year. My Dad went to the state semifinals his senior year. They were really good. He always brags about it to me," Cam Buffington said. “He says everyone was in the weight room. Everyone wanted the same thing. They all wanted to get to the Dome. They all wanted to finish their careers there. They got in the weight room and pushed each other so hard. Coach (Jeff) Wrede knew what to say to push them harder.”
For Cam Buffington and this year's group of Wolves, it all starts with hard work and commitment in the weight room. They are trying to bring W-MU football back to a level it once enjoyed.
“Everyone is coming in here. Everyone is lifting hard. We have a way different attitude than last year," Cam Buffington said. "Everyone was just messing around last year. It was bad. This year we have a totally different attitude. Everyone wants to win, wants to get somewhere. I think that will help us get somewhere.”
As for Buffington, he prefers to lead more through example and less by words. Even as a sophomore, he is stepping up into a leadership role. He holds himself to a high standard and wants to make sure everyone else is following suit.
“If someone is late or they skip, I will make them run," Cam Buffington said. "It’s just a team thing. We want to be great. To do great things we have to push each other. If someone is late I’ll tell them, ‘You’ve got two 80s.’ Just be disciplined. Playing quarterback I have to be a leader, too. I have to be the one to know all the plays. I have to get them down. I have to know all the formations so I can tell anyone and everyone exactly what we have to do.”
"Cam is a very hard worker who leads by example," McCarty said. "We have big expectations for him, but he probably has bigger expectations for himself. We see him every day and we see the standards he holds himself and his teammates to. He is a very smart kid football-wise. He's just a great kid all the way around."
Buffington is learning a new position this year. He will play linebacker, the position Iowa recruited him for. But on offense he will shift from running back to quarterback. He got a little help from former Mediapolis all-state quarterback Jesse Ertz, who went on to a solid career at Kansas State.
“I worked out with Jesse Ertz over the summer in Mediapolis. He taught me some stuff. We met on Easter Day and he told me some drills to work on," Buffington said. “He’s taught me so much. Just playing catch, I always worry about my spiral. He told me not to worry about that. He’s taught me so much.”
"Cam throws a great ball. He allows us to throw the ball around a little bit," McCarty said. "He is such a dynamic athlete that we want him to be able to have the ball every play. Moving him to quarterback will make it tougher for teams to focus on him and stack the box. Catching the ball every snap puts a lot of pressure on those other teams."
Buffington put up impressive numbers as a freshman. He rushed for 956 yards on 114 carriers and scored 17 touchdowns. He also completed 4-of-11 passes for 104 yards and two scores. He hauled in four passes for 73 yards and two TDs. On defense, Buffington made 50 1/2 tackles — 38 solo — and intercepted a pass, returning in 27 yards for a score. As the punter, Buffington averaged 31.8 yards on 18 kicks.
Buffington put in a lot of time lifting weights this summer, gearing up for his sophomore year. There are now lofty expectations and lots of eyes on him as an Iowa recruit.
“I have my own lifting set at my house, so I am there every day except for Saturday and Sunday. I have been lifting, just trying to be myself. Be stronger, bigger, faster," Buffington said. “I think we’ll have a better record than last year. We’ll definitely be better. Everyone has to step it up because we don’t have a ton of numbers. Our whole defense is the key. I think our offense will be consistent enough. We just have to have a good defense and be consistent and we’ll be fine.”
Buffington wants to put Winfield-Mount Union back on the map for football. For a school which has produced NCAA Division I standouts Jess Settles, Klay Edwards and Linda Lappe, that is saying a lot.
“In the past they haven’t been great," Buffington said of W-MU football. "I want to turn the vision into something big. Like if someone from Des Moines or somewhere like that says, ‘Where are you from?’ “Winfield.’ ‘Oh, that’s where Jess Settles is from.’ I like Jess and I want everyone to know Jess. But I want Winfield-Mount Union to be known, not just for one player, but our team, the jersey, the school to be known.”