116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FAYETTE — Willy Camacho developed a passion for football before he ever donned a set of pads and buckled a helmet’s chinstrap.
He was instantly attracted to the sport, watching his older brother, Jesse, play. By the time Camacho started playing at age 7, he was eager to take the field on his own.
“I always wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Camacho said. “I knew I wanted to play already because of those previous years of watching my brother, seeing his success. It just naturally led me to wanting to play.”
Camacho continues to display that enthusiasm as a versatile running back for Upper Iowa. The Peacocks’ sophomore led the team in rushing last season and was named a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player to Watch to start this season.
“I really have just loved the game,” said Camacho, who played at Chaminade College Prep High School in Palmdale, Calif. “It’s been fun for me since a young age. I’ve been wanting to do it. It never crossed my mind that I could do it in college.”
Camacho’s sibling wasn’t the only family member to influence his football career. His dad, William Taylor, was instrumental in getting him started in the game. He motivated Camacho to play, make use of his talents and develop the intangibles football can teach.
“He explained it to me in a way to where I understood this is what I’m good at, this is what I’m working for,” said Camacho, noting his dad remains a big supporter and that he traveled from California to Fayette for a couple games a year ago. “At the end of the day, he’s the one that encouraged me to play. He never forced me to play, but he taught me the values of playing and that’s what really stuck with me the most.”
Taylor instilled a strong work ethic in his son that created a reliable and dependable player for Upper Iowa’s three-year head coach Jason Hoskins. Camacho touched the ball 174 times, which is second on the team to starting quarterback and former Linn-Mar prep Marcus Orr.
“He was kind of a mainstay back there,” Hoskins said. “He was available all the time. He gave us that consistent guy that we were able to rely on every game.
“He had an impact in a lot of different areas. Coaches love consistency. If you have a game that pops and just one that sticks out then we’re on the roller coaster a little bit. If I can’t pick one, that means he’s a consistent player.”
Camacho amassed more than 860 yards of offense, including 663 rushing, and two touchdowns last season. He also averaged 18.61 yards on 18 kick returns. Camacho was a jack of all trades for the Peacocks and they plan to utilize that versatility again, rotating with Keontae Luckett (97-439 in 2021) and Desean Phillips (75-261) in the backfield.
All-conference left tackle Eddy Gosche and center Logan Zacharias are expected to lead the way on the offensive line. Upper Iowa linebacker R.J. Knaack joined Camacho on the preseason conference watch list. Camacho took the honor with a grain of salt and touch of humility.
“I appreciate it but I have to keep doing what I do and keep working toward getting better,” Camacho said. “There is always room for improvement. I feel like as long as I have that mindset of always trying to get better then that stuff is a plus. I’m just focused on getting better and benefiting the team.”
Hoskins, a former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, said that Camacho is tough to defend, being too quick for most linebackers and too physical for defensive backs.
Camacho produced a game-high 138 rushing yards against Northern State, which hosts Upper Iowa in the season opener Thursday in Aberdeen, S.D.
“Obviously, he can take handoffs out of the backfield and that is predominantly what he’s done in our football program,” Hoskins said. “Willy has a lot of other skills, as far as us being able to motion or shift him out, even line him up in a lot of positions. He can catch the ball as well as anybody on our football team. Because of that, he causes some issues with personnel for defenses.”
Camacho relishes that role with the team. He is prepared to do whatever is asked for him to contribute to the team’s success, coming off last year’s 1-10 campaign
“My biggest goal is to do what I can do to benefit the team,” Camacho said. “If there is anything I can do, I will do it to the best of my abilities for the team. I’m excited for that.”