CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jeremy Cannon isn’t your typical NFL prospect. Some might say he isn’t even a legitimate NFL prospect.
Whether or not he makes it to the NFL, Jeremy Cannon has a cautionary tale to tell to high school athletes: Don’t take sports for granted and do your school work.
Cannon was once considered a “can’t-miss football prospect” coming out of Northwest Cabarrus High School despite a severe knee injury that cost him his junior season. He was still recruited by Florida, Stanford, Southern California, Notre Dame, Texas, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech, Duke, Northwestern, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. He had tentative offers from Clemson, East Carolina, Marshall, North Carolina, Northern Illinois and Virginia.
Cannon, who has the perfect last name for a quarterback, thought football would be enough to get him to college and eventually to the NFL. But the 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback didn’t study or do homework and barely graduated from high school with an embarrassingly low grade point average.
“I would definitely focus on my school work and taken that more seriously,” Cannon said Monday. “I would have definitely pushed myself more.
“I would consider doing it over again, but I don’t regret anything. Had I not experienced that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have the drive to want to succeed.”
He hasn’t given up on his NFL dreams, however. Cannon spent the 2010 football season at Garden City Community College in Kansas. Despite a successful year of school, Cannon moved back to North Carolina in 2011 because of some family issues.
Because he had not yet played at an NCAA institution, Cannon believed his eligibility wasn’t affected. He was wrong and the clock was ticking. Cannon didn’t return to college until 2014, when he went west to lead the College of San Mateo football team, which finished the season 9-2. Cannon threw for just 463 yards and five scores, but ran for another 212 yards and a score in five games.
Those five games were the last Cannon played at the college level because his eligibility had expired.
Cannon’s high school regrets came flooding back. Cannon’s grades weren’t up to snuff. Smaller schools like Northern Illinois and East Carolina, who may have been able to find a spot for him, were shunned because Cannon believed he’d be able to play for one of college football’s powerhouse programs.
“I was getting recruited by Florida, USC … top Division I programs. When smaller schools came along, I was like, ‘I’m not interested in ya’ll,’” said Cannon, who prefers gospel music to hip-hop. “It was a pride thing, but I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. By the time I did go back to Northern Illinois, they pulled my scholarship.”
NIU won 11 games in 2010, what would have been Cannon’s freshman season. The Huskies again won 11 games in 2011 and quarterback Jordan Lynch led NIU to a 12-2 mark and berth in the Orange Bowl as a junior in 2012.
“There was an opportunity for me,” Cannon said. “When I look at guys coming out of smaller schools — Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco — if you’re a baller, you can ball and scouts with find you no matter where you’re at.”
Just as Cannon came back from a torn ACL, LCL and PCL before his junior season of high school to throw for over 2,000 yards as a senior, Cannon hasn’t given up on his NFL dreams.
He participated in a regional combine in Chicago in 2015 and went to Indianapolis in February of 2016 to meet with teams there for the official NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. While in Indianapolis, Cannon had a private workout with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I believe I did exceptionally well there,” said Cannon, who completed 20 of his 21 pass attempts. “It was a fun time. That was a neat experience.”
While Cannon has workouts with other NFL teams scheduled in April, he realizes that without any football experience at the four-year college level, he’s a longshot to make it to the league.
That’s why he has a backup plan.
The 24-year-old works at a Harris Teeter pharmacy while starting pharmacy school. He actually flew back from Indianapolis for a day to take a pharmacy test and then went right back to Indy for his workout with the Eagles.
“Football is not always going to be there, so I want to have a nice backup plan,” said Cannon, whose interest in the medical field began while recovering from his high school injury. “I want to be able to do things and not have to ask people for (help). I’m going through that now. I want to go places now, but I can’t. I don’t want my children to go through that. That’s what has been my motivation.”
Thanks to his cousin and agent, Charlotte-based Leo Jackson, Cannon was able to train at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and clocked a 4.58-second 40-yard dash in February. That time was much better than the 4.77 he posted last year in Chicago.
He’s received tutelage in some form, whether it be at camps while in high school or at IMG, from college coaches like Urban Meyer, Mark Richt and Mike Bobo. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll — while still at USC — came to see Cannon at San Mateo. Cannon has also trained with former NFL quarterbacks Steve Walsh and Rob Johnson. Walsh said Cannon “absolutely” has NFL ability because of his “live arm” and elusiveness. Cannon’s footwork was “very raw,” but it’s something on which he improved at IMG.
Cannon thought his “footwork was fine” before working with Walsh, a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 who spent 11 years in the NFL.
“We were able to instill some solid fundamentals that he can build on,” Walsh said in an email. “His accuracy is compromised at times with faulty footwork when he relies on just his arm. He has potential to be elusive with his mobility. That is difficult without a live rush to evaluate. He has the desire to be great.”
While at IMG, Cannon said seeing pictures on the walls of current NFL players fed his yearning to “succeed even more.” Not only did Cannon improve his fundamentals, he also left with a stronger work ethic and better understanding of a good diet plan.
Cannon knows he’s facing an uphill climb, made even more difficult by a hand size of only 9 inches. After getting invited to three rookie minicamps in 2015, Cannon is hoping to again receive an opportunity to try out for an NFL team. Maybe that chance will come in May. If it doesn’t, one thing’s for certain — Cannon will have his nose in a book, whether it’s a playbook or a textbook.