Considering Geoff Cameron's recent success, it's hard to imagine that the defender was largely unheralded before January.
Before 2012, Cameron just hoped to be selected on the United States national team and was a solid player for the Houston Dynamo. Now, he's not only a starter for the Stars and Stripes but first choice for Stoke City FC in arguably the world's top domestic soccer competition, the English Premier League.
What a difference 12 months make.
And Cameron isn't taking any of it for granted.
"I'm working hard and staying focused. I don't think I'm a regular starter [for the U.S. national team]," Cameron told Goal.com. "I still know I have a lot to prove and every opportunity that I'm given I need to take advantage of it. There are guys who are fighting for this position and I am as well. "
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At 27, Cameron isn't a young prospect but a player entering his prime. He isn't waiting to develop his talent; rather, he is hungry to show what he's capable of.
Upon his arrival at Stoke, Cameron immediately impressed manager Tony Pulis, who decided to find ways to get the American into the starting lineup, whether it be at defensive midfield or, more recently, right back. Though Cameron would like to feature at center back, where he plays for his country, his main priority is remain in the starting XI for the Potters.
"Obviously, I prefer to play center back, but I also prefer to be on the field. For me it doesn't matter. I'm staying match fit and sharp. That's all I want to do," he explained.
Cameron has made a strong start to his career at Stoke, superbly defending the likes of Chelsea's Eden Hazard one week and Arsenal's Santi Carzola the next. His performances have drawn rave reviews from the club's fans and the media but, more importantly, his drive has earned the respect of national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
“We are very, very pleased with Cameron’s development,” Klinsmann told reporters in Antigua & Barbuda last week. “He came in for the first time in January camp and I was impressed. He told me, ‘I want to go to Europe. I want to make it.’ I told him what it takes to get there and what to do. He’s very hungry.”
Last summer, Cameron's career took a huge step forward when he was switched from playing midfield to center back for the Dynamo. His move to the backline helped anchor an MLS Cup final run in 2011, when Houston narrowly lost 1-0 to the LA Galaxy.
Cameron's impact during the Dynamo's playoff run catapulted him into the national team scene and ultimately sealed his move to Stoke the following summer.
Now in the world's most watched soccer league, Cameron insists that his lifestyle hasn't changed much despite constant scrutiny from the British media.
"It's fine. I'm a quiet guy anyways," he said. "I keep to myself and stay focused. I'm just a normal guy so I haven't really changed my habits. I live a pretty small microscopic life, I guess you could say."
As for Cameron's transition to playing in England, he admits there is an adjustment moving from Houston, where the weather is somewhere between hot and scorching, and England, which is infamous for its rainy climate. But the most important thing to Cameron is having the chance to play against the world's best every week.
"I think it's been a great transition so far. I'm enjoying the life, the different scenery. It's definitely different from Houston where it's hot, humid and intense out there, as opposed to the nice cold weather in the Manchester and Stoke areas," Cameron said.
"So for me, I'm enjoying the lifestyle, the [level] of training every day. The feeling of being in the EPL is pretty special."
A lot has changed from just a year ago.