One season of college football was all it took Dorian Camel to realize it was time for a career change.
A partial tear in the patella tendons of both knees convinced Camel, a four-star Scotlandville High recruit, to swap his football boots for a pair of spikes and leave the Tulane football team after the 2018 season.
It was a good decision for Camel, who joined the LSU track team for the 2019 indoor season and is one of coach Dennis Shaver’s top sprinters three years later.
“It was a business decision,” Camel said. “Football was always number 1, but track was healthier for my body. … I just had a change of heart.”
It’s obvious there are no regrets, especially after winning a national championship with LSU last June — the first title for the men’s team in nearly two decades.
Camel followed that up with a breakthrough 2022 season, which sees him as one of the nation’s top contenders in the 200 meters ahead of the NCAA East preliminary rounds that begin Wednesday in Bloomington, Indiana.
In addition to the 200 meters, where he clocked the fifth fastest time in the nation at 20.00 seconds, Camel has set another personal best in the 100 meter at 10.11 seconds and is part of the 4×100 and 4×400 Tigers relay teams.
His transformation from the 400-mile open relay he ran when he joined the program to the short sprints and both relays came after he lost 30 pounds from his football game weight of 190 pounds.
“When I lost soccer weight, it helped me a lot,” Camel said.
It also didn’t hurt to train every day with 400-meter specialists Noah Williams and Vernon Norwood, two of the best three-quarter milers in LSU history.
They helped nudge him in the right direction, Camel said.
“I’ve always had the foot speed, but you have to be tough and have the power to be good in the 400,” he said. “I also trusted the program and my body was finally healthier.”
The hard work has resulted in a dramatic change for Camel this season – particularly during the outdoor portion of the schedule.
After finishing fifth in the 200m and sixth in the 60m indoors at the SEC, he began dropping some fast times outdoors.
Camel ran 9:03 p.m. at the 200 and 10:33 p.m. at his outdoor opens, but posted a 10:13 p.m. PR at the LSU Alumni Gold meeting on April 23 and recorded his 8:00 p.m. at the a week later LSU Invitational.
He finished third in the 100 and 200 at the Southeastern Conference Championships on May 14, dropping his PR in the 100 to 10.11 – the seventh fastest time in school history – and ran 20.43 in the 200.
His best of 20.00 in the 200 is #4 on LSU’s all-time list.
“I’ve consistently run under 21s in the 200s and under 10.1s in the 100s this season,” Camel said with a smile. “Running that 20 flat was a relief because it was super hard just trying to get under 21 last year.
“This year I’m running easy 20s and struggling to get into 19s,” he said. “I think I have it in me. My confidence has improved and I believe in my training more.”
That, too, has become easier in training with sprinters Da’Marcus Fleming, Godson Oghenebrume and Kenroy Higgins, who join Camel and hurdler Eric Edwards Jr. in contention for the four spots in the sprint relay.
While that helps, Camel credits the time in the movie room to his vast improvement this season.
“I started focusing more on being a student of the game,” he said. “I’m using the right technique because I’m concentrating and studying more than just running. Basically, I practice smarter, not harder.”
And it shows on the clock.