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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

2023 Fall High School Sports Preview: Coeur d’Alene’s stingy defense led by Division I recruits Camden DeGraw, Shea Roberston

Coeur d’Alene defensive end Camden DeGraw is photographed during football practice on Aug. 15.  (Kathy Plonka)

Camden DeGraw began playing football the year before kindergarten. Twelve years later, he is Idaho’s No. 2 ranked player and schools across the nation sought his commitment.

Coeur d’Alene’s 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior leader has the ideal build for a Division I defensive end. Vikings’ head coach Shawn Amos says that what sets DeGraw apart, aside from his genetics, is his work ethic.

“He’s been blessed with a great frame, long arms and can move well,” Amos said. “You can’t control your genetics, but you can control how hard you work in the weight room and all those things. I think Cam has shown growth in those areas and has become a more serious athlete.”

Despite boasting three Division I recruits on defense, the Vikings didn’t receive a single vote in Idaho’s 5A preseason media poll. That changed after a 27-21 Week 0 win over two-time defending state champ and then-No. 1 Rigby last Friday, when CdA picked off returning state player of the year Luke Flowers four times.

After the impressive debut, the Vikings will have a hard time sneaking up on anyone else this season – and that all starts on the defensive side of the ball.

DeGraw puts a lot of stock in the positive impact Amos has had on his game.

“Coach Amos really showed he had belief in me,” he said. “I was a good football player, but before this past year, I wasn’t doing the best grades-wise. Coach really helped me along, and last year, I had a 3.8 and 4.0.”

DeGraw visited seven Division 1 college campuses in search of the right coaching fit. These schools consisted of Washington State, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Weber State, Oregon State, University of Washington and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

After careful consideration, DeGraw committed to Washington State. The close distance between Coeur d’Alene and Pullman was a primary factor for his decision. Two other schools he was considering attending were Oklahoma State and Boise State.

“Out of all the schools I talked with, I felt WSU had the coaches that would make me the best player I can be,” DeGraw said. “College is going to be interesting. I will be in a whole new place fighting for a spot with guys that are older than me; it’s going to be different. I’m looking forward to the competition and eventually getting a degree in kinesiology.”

Amos says WSU will be a great fit for DeGraw.

“He’s going to have to come in with the mindset of being ready to go to work and being ready for a lot of challenges,” Amos said. “He has a very high ceiling. He has a chance to be a really good football player.”

DeGraw says he loves the opportunities and joy football has to offer.

Playing against older competition as a child helped DeGraw become the player he is today. He always played on the same team as his older brother, which put him up against kids that were two years older.

Though the advanced competition was a challenge at such a young age, DeGraw says his favorite memory of playing football was during Pop Warner when his dad coached his two sons.

What sets DeGraw apart is his ability to outwork the competition. He will play both sides of the ball for the Vikings this season at tight end and defensive end.

“I always just tried to be the best kid on my team. What you’re doing when nobody is watching is how you get better. I never stop or give up, and I am physical on the field,” DeGraw said.

He works with a lot of speed, power and plyometric training. DeGraw brings a unique combination of speed and strength to his position and is confident in his ability to perform well in college. He hopes to see playing time as a freshman.

The ultimate goal for DeGraw is to become a professional football player. If this plan does not pan out, DeGraw will seek a degree in kinesiology to become a physical therapist.

He and his fellow Vikings defender Shea Robertson are both three-star recruits and ranked within the top nine players in the state. The Vikings defense is the only group in the state – offensive or defensive – to have multiple three-star recruits.

“Shea opens stuff up for me, and I open up stuff for him, and it’s just fun,” DeGraw said. “If he’s behind me, I know he’s gonna do his job.”

While DeGraw is the only reason Robertson is not the headline name of the formidable Coeur d’Alene defense, Robertson appreciates that the two can play together and complement one another’s abilities. He says DeGraw’s work ethic is unmatched. Both players’ goal is to win the state championship.

“Our front seven all just helps each other out,” Robertson said. “This is the best defense I’ve been a part of. I think we’re the best defense in the state, and I think teams are going to have a tough time moving the ball against us.

“Cam puts in a lot of work in the film and weight rooms. He loves the game, and he’s a competitor. Some kids don’t have that mentality, but Cam wants to be No. 1 and win, and that’s what you need.”

Robertson grew up in southern California and was always one of the best defenders on his team. He and his family moved to Coeur d’Alene in July 2020, prior to his freshman year. Robertson says he did not release his full potential until he played in North Idaho.

He moved back to California in May of 2021, ahead of his sophomore year, and started all eleven games on varsity at Millikan High School, leading the league in tackles with 111. Robertson mentioned playing against top-notch high school programs such as Long Beach Poly and Carlsbad gave him a confidence boost.

“When I played well against those teams, I realized I was pretty good.”

He moved back to North Idaho in May of 2022 and has performed exceptionally well for the Vikings ever since.

Robertson attributes his success to various coaches, but his passion for football can not be coached.

“I love the game. I love the grind. I love being out there on Friday nights under the lights and the competitive nature of being out there with your boys and going through hell,” he said. “The hard work aspect. That’s what football gave me. It taught me to put my head down and grind, and eventually, things paid off.”

Robertson was first offered by Montana Tech in March and now has offers from Montana State-Northern, Pacific and College of Idaho. He visited Montana, Weber State, and Eastern Washington. After playing well at a camp, he earned an offer from Eastern Washington in early July.

Regarding college, Robertson said, “I look forward to the new challenge of playing at a super high level.”

Amos says he is lucky to have three college football players on the front seven. DeGraw and Robertson are accompanied by two-star defensive end Aaron Ivankovich, who has been offered by Montana Tech and Whitworth.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate here where we’ve had a number of pretty high-level kids come through our program, and it’s always nice when you have a kid with a high ceiling. That always makes your job a little easier. I think honestly, Cam’s best games are still ahead of him. He’s still got room to grow, so we’re excited to see how much better he can progress throughout this football season.”

Liam Bradford's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.