Simply put, West Aurora's Donatlan did it all
Two stories explain why some consider three-sport star Cam Donatlan the greatest athlete to ever come out of West Aurora.
Donatlan does not compete in track and field as a freshman. When he joins the team as a sophomore, West Aurora coach Courtney Lamb isn't sure how well the raw athlete will perform in his first meet. After all, he had practiced the high jump for three days only and understood little technique.
"Being the outstanding coach that I am, I put him on the sophomore level because it was his first time jumping," Lamb said with a laugh. "I figured let's see what the kid can do."
Donatlan clears 6 feet, 8 inches, two inches shy of the school record. The winner of the varsity competition clears 6-4.
"He would have won the varsity high jump," Lamb said. "The other coaches were looking at me like 'What are you doing?' I've since learned Cam can accomplish almost anything athletically he puts his mind to."
Fast forward to Donatlan's senior year. It's football season. The wide receiver with 4.45 speed already committed to play for Wyoming gets his hand caught in a face mask and breaks his knuckles in a Week 4 win over Glenbard East. He sits out the next three games.
Because Donatlan has only 7 receptions at that point and a tender hand, West Aurora coach Nate Eimer and staff decide to switch the shifty ball carrier to running back to get him more touches. He gets cleared medically and participates in two practices at his new position before facing Bartlett in Week 8.
In his first game at running back, Donatlan rushes 11 times for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Blackhawks win 56-14.
The Week 9 game at Geneva falls on Donatlan's 18th birthday. The North Aurora resident rushes for 152 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by an 82-yard scoring run that gives his team a fourth-quarter lead. The Blackhawks win 28-24.
In his final high school football game against a stingy Naperville Central defense, Donatlan still gains 4 yards per carry. He finishes with 81 yards and a touchdown on 20 totes.
"We never really got a chance to teach him how to play running back and still he ran for all those yards," Eimer said. "It's going to be exciting to see how it all works out for Camron in college. I think he'll be one of those combo guys who could line up at receiver, but you also just want to put the ball in his hands and see what happens. He hasn't even scratched the surface of what he can do in football."
Football ends. Donatlan laces up his basketball shoes and resumes being one of the most dynamic guards in the state. A four-year starter named to the varsity as a freshman by Hall-of-Fame coach Gordie Kerkman, Donatlan earns his third straight all-area nod after helping the Blackhawks make a supersectional appearance before losing to eventual state champion Belleville West. He averages 19 points and 4.2 assists and is named second-team all-state by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.
Next comes track and field season. Already a two-time state champion high jumper, Donatlan sweeps the Kane County, Upstate Eight and sectional titles for the third straight year. Though he fails to three-peat in the high jump at the state meet -- he finishes fourth -- he takes the long jump state title with a distance of 21 feet, 1¾. inches.
Donatlan was named Upstate Eight all-conference in football, basketball and track and field. He was all-state in track, second-team all-state in basketball and "had he played more football games this year he would have been all-state in all three sports," Eimer said. "I don't know a kid that can do that, especially in this modern day. It's him working hard, having discipline and being coachable. I'm proud of Cam and what he accomplished this year. He came a long way and it'll be neat to see him carry on."
For his success in three sports, recent West Aurora graduate Camron Donatlan has been named 2017-18 Daily Herald Fox Valley Male Athlete of the Year.
"It's not just that he's athletic, it's that he uses his athleticism so well," West Aurora basketball coach Brian Johnson said. "Some guys are athletic but they don't know how to use it. For each sport Camron uses different aspects of his athleticism and does all three with ease.
"In football, he changes speeds and changes direction. He reads the situation and intinctually knows how to cut. In basketball, he uses his body in the air to avoid contact and soar through the lane. And he does it without pounding his body. He makes it look easy. Then you think about the intricacies of the high jump or long jump. He's able to excel at the more technical aspects as well."
Donatlan was named to Saturday's IBCA All-Star Game in Pontiac but could not participate. It was moving day. He left the home he shares with his mom, Melissa, his grandparents and two younger sisters for Laramie, Wyoming to begin training with the Cowboys. He intends to also compete in track and field while majoring in Kinesiology.
"I'd like to be a physical therapist," Donatlan said. "I'd like to stay around athletics in something I can have fun with."
What does Donatlan see when he looks at his high school accomplishments in the rearview mirror?
"It was a real good experience," he said. "It was good being part of the turnaround of West Aurora football. I think we set an example for the kids to grind harder and change things.
"And I'll always remember winning that sectional at Hinsdale Central when I was a freshman. There were a lot of memorable moments.
"It's good to be able to say I'm a high school graduate but it still sounds weird. It all went by so fast."