Once Cameron Smith made the decision that he wasn’t going to pursue his dream of playing professional hockey, he went all in with his new career plan: studying applied computer science at George Mason University.
“I really had to look inside myself,” Smith said. “I already had a few injuries. It was tearing up my body. Maybe being a pro hockey player isn’t what I’m supposed to do for the world. Maybe it’s not my fate.”
That said, the sophomore, nicknamed the “Smith Show,” hasn’t completely given up on hockey. The forward—all 5 feet 9, 170 pounds of him—leads Mason’s club team and was tied for the lead in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 3 with 51 goals in 23 games, through Feb. 11. That after a freshman season in which he led the ACHA with 72 goals in 27 games.
“He’s one of the fastest players on the ice all the time, and his skill set rounds out his ability,” said Alex Grose, a former Mason player who is now a coach and recruiting coordinator. “He has great hands and a great shot. He knows how to score.”
When professional hockey was his dream, Smith was all in. He committed to play for NCAA Division I Dartmouth, and he honed his skills playing for various teams in the junior North American and United States leagues.
But Dartmouth cooled on Smith after he sustained a serious left knee injury, he said. And after several trades, Smith said he was tired of the grind.
Grose, who knew Smith from their playing days with the junior Potomac Pirates, advised him to come to Mason.
Smith went all in again, this time to take advantage of the opportunities the university afforded.
In addition to his studies, Smith joined the Mason Enterprise Center to learn better ways to run and promote his business building aquariums that double as tabletops. Smith said he built the aquariums in his garage and shipped them around the country.
“He has an entrepreneurial spirit about him,” said George Siragusa, who teaches ME352, Entrepreneurship in Engineering, in Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering and is a senior business advisor in the Enterprise Center’s Small Business Development Team. “He has a quality that I like, in that he knows what he doesn’t know, and he seeks out mentors to fill in those gaps.”
Smith said the business had a chance to be successful but, long-term, developing a career in computer programming is more important.
“This summer I’m looking to dive into programming and use my creativity to get some real experience,” Smith said. “I need that perspective of what it’s like in the workplace.”
He certainly knows what it’s like on the ice, as Smith is pacing a team that was first and undefeated (9-0) in its division in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference, through Feb. 11.
“I’m a software engineer,” Smith said. “I get to study that, and at the same time I get to play my sport.”