It’s enough of a challenge for most college students to get through classes with little fanfare and good grades.
Mix in a career in athletics, and a person’s time in school can get very tight.
For senior UC Davis tight end Cameron Sentance, not only does he excel in the classroom while doing his job on the gridiron, the Los Angeles native also is a member of UCD’s Student Resident Firefighter Program.
As one might expect, some days he catches sleep on the run.
The community and regional development major — who will be on the field Saturday when the Aggies (0-3) host Portland State (2-1) at 6 p.m. — wouldn’t trade a second of his campus life.
“I won’t be doing this if I wasn’t passionate about firefighting as a career,” the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Sentence told The Enterprise. “I love the job. I love helping people. I love the excitement, the brotherhood. All the things I get out of football, I feel like I get those same things out of the fire service.”
The UCD Fire Department has 15 student firefighters on board for a program that changes out every two years.
Once a student emerges from the training academy, he or she is given 24 months on staff, learning life-saving and firefighting techniques and melding with the paid professionals employed by the school.
After graduating in July 2012 from the academy — many enter, few emerge as part of the program — Sentance began to see the challenges. He says he’s since become a master of time management.
“I did a couple of 48-hour shifts in August,” Sentance says of his station house commitment, which often coincides with his football life. “I tried to fit them in on days off, but it can be tough.
“My focus right now is the playbook, but fire is still a big part of what I do.”
While the Aggies are off to a winless start — with Sentance figuring thus far mostly in blocking schemes — the senior is doing a remarkable balancing act.
He knows the pace will pick up further when school begins next week.
“During the school year, I’ll work (four, 14-hours shifts and one 24-hour shift each month),” the Marshall High (L.A.) grad explains. “I work those around my full load of school and football, so I’m not sleeping much.”
UCD Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht says Sentance and the other program members “do almost everything the regular firefighters do. We work them while we teach them.”
But Trauernicht believes athletes like Sentance often are the perfect fit in a fire house.
“Athletes translate well to our program,” adds the chief. “Team athletes and fire crews have a lot in common. We’re a team here. … There are a lot similarities in the things that make for good athletes and good firefighters: physical fitness, a sense of team, intelligence are just a few.”
Trauernicht says Sentence is a “great addition to the department and program. He’s the kind of guy that makes for a caring, effective firefighter.”
Sentance says his course of study and work at the UCD Fire Department have some things in common — “It’s an interesting study from a sociological aspect, how people are acting under stress” — but “we’re first responders, so I’m not there to study anyone. We’re there to help someone.”
It’s football and being a firefighter that provide the commonalities.
“Both places we’re a team,” he says. “The key to it all? Passion, drive, time management. You have to really want it.”
First-year Aggie football coach Ron Gould appreciates his big tight end’s can-do attitude and knows it will be guys like Sentance — either on the field or through attitude — who will push UCD to a constantly improving season.
And it’s cooperation between the Aggie coaches and Fire Department hierarchy that allow Sentance to blossom in both regards.
“We are really pleased with Cameron,” Trauernicht reiterates, adding that his department think female athletes, too, would make excellent program participants. In fact, the chief says he’ll be talking with Aggie basketball and volleyball players this fall.
“We’d like to have more athletes involved.”
Good friend and former roommate Nick King, a standout defensive end for UCD, marvels at Sentance’s schedule.
“He’d get a (fire) call at 3 a.m. and still be at a workout at 6 a.m.,” King remembers, wondering how his buddy stayed focused. “He gets through it with his hard work and perseverance … never-say-die attitude.”
With nine more games left on the Aggie gridiron schedule, and the start of class just around the corner — which means more shifts scheduled at the fire house — there’s one thing that’s certain in Sentance’s future …
Gould won’t have to worry about Cameron missing any bed checks this season.
Notes: Sentance was a Southern Section all-CIF defensive end and wide receiver at Marshall. His final prep year saw him catch 46 passes for 765 yards and nine touchdowns. He was among the team leaders in tackles. … But Sentence wasn’t always a football player. “I was really into basketball,” he points out — until a friend invited him to watch a junior high football game. “To see my friend walk out there in his pads, like a real warrior … I said, ‘This is something I want to do when I get to high school.” … Cameron is the son of David and Carla Sentance. … Trauernicht has been UCD chief since 2008. … Friday, Oct. 4, is Fire Day on the Quad and students, faculty and staff can participate in fire-safety activities, including wearing fire gear and watching an air-lift helicopter make a landing.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.