FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon might turn out to be one of the big steals of the 2011 NFL draft.
The Patriots selected him in the fifth round (138th overall), as he slipped lower because of a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis. Cannon has since completed treatments, and after starting the season on the reserve/non-football injury list, he was promoted to the roster Nov. 15.
The 6-foot-5, 358-pound blocker has dressed in the team’s past five games, gradually earning more time on a week-to-week basis when the Patriots move starting right tackle Nate Solder to tight end and insert Cannon there.
“I think he’s coming along well,” coach Bill Belichick said this week. “He’s out there every day, working hard, doing all the things that we do offensively and then he takes the scout team reps and is able to get work against our defense. That’s good competition. He’s coming along. He has a long way to go, but he’s making progress."
While Belichick shared his thoughts on Cannon this week, Cannon himself took time to share his “football journey” with ESPNBoston.com:
When he first started playing football: “I think I was around 8. We played soccer and basketball, and then we slipped football in there.”
Why he went out for football: “All the other kids were doing it. We liked it. We always wanted to. One day we were sitting in the truck, in Roswell, New Mexico, on Union Street, and we said ‘Dad, we want to play football.’ And we went from there.”
First positions: “I was a receiver and a little bit of defense. I moved to running back, then I got too heavy and was playing offensive and defensive line. When I really started playing offensive and defensive line, I was close to sixth or seventh grade.”
Favorite teams growing up: “It was always the Cowboys. My dad was a big Cowboys fan.”
Favorite players growing up: “I had Walter Payton’s number for a long time. That’s what I wore when I was a running back. He was my favorite player of all time. There wasn’t anybody else.”
Role models in his life: “I have two older brothers and my parents are still together, so it was always my older brothers. I always wanted to do what they did and tried to be as good as they were. They were hard on me, but they always had my back. I remember one time we got in trouble because I didn’t like this one guy and I told my brother he swore at me, and my brother got in a fight with him. He got in trouble, and of course I got in trouble for lying. But that showed how he always stuck up for me.”
Top memories at Odessa High School in Texas: “It would probably be beating Permian, our crosstown rival. It was the first two times we ever did that in 40 years. Another would be playing with my older brother, DJ. It was pretty fun playing with him.”
Why he chose to attend Texas Christian: “It was mostly for the educational part, and that every year I knew I was going to get a ring. In high school, we didn’t win any championships. It also had good coaching so it seemed like the right place for me. I looked at [Texas] Tech; I think that was the only other visit I went on.”
Top memories at TCU: “Of course the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl. A lot of my memories are from practice or stuff that happened when we were together as a team. There was a lot of funny stuff. I’ll never forget my offensive line from there.”
Expectations entering the NFL draft before his non-Hodgkin’s diagnosis: “I just knew I was going to get drafted. I didn’t know if it was going to be first, second, third, but I knew I’d be in the NFL and that was the biggest thing. I just wanted to get here. Even if it was as a free agent, I wouldn’t have cared.”
Getting diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “It was still the same. I just wanted to play football, even more than before. I didn’t care where I went. I just wanted to play.”
Reaction to being selected by the Patriots in the fifth round: “It was awesome. I was really happy, and everything I had worked through, it was a blessing. I was blessed to go through everything I went through and then go to one of the best teams, with the best coaching staff, with the best quarterback.”
How he describes life as a Patriot: “It’s kind of the same in college in a way. Coach Patterson, he expected so much out of us. He expected us to act a certain way. It’s the same way here, there is a certain way you have to act. I kind of feel the same in that way. The coaching staff is awesome, really good. The atmosphere is good.”
Highlights of his rookie season: “There have been so many of them. As a rookie in the NFL, everything stands out. You’re meeting one of the greatest coaches for the first time. You come into the locker room and see all the faces you’re used to seeing on TV. Getting to play. There has been a lot.”
What he likes about football: “It’s getting a chance to show what you got. The challenge, that’s the biggest thing.”
Comparing football in college vs. the NFL: “Bigger, faster, stronger guys.”
Summing up his football journey: “Eventful. It’s a good journey and hopefully it’s not at the end. Even when I was young, I never thought I’d be in this place right now. It’s awesome. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, and done a lot of things, and it’s just awesome the way it’s been so far. I’m happy.”