As the children’s day-long “Football for YOU” camp, in Worcester, MA, was in full swing, participants took a moment of their time to listen to New England Patriots tackle Marcus Cannon, who spoke to the sea of young faces, sharing stories of his experiences with the Patriots while also encouraging them to live healthy lives.
The “Football for You” camp, in its fifth year, is a free football camp held by the New England Patriots Alumni Club and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation; and is also a part of the NFL Play 60 movement, which encourages young fans to take on a healthy lifestyle.
Marcus Cannon has already become a shining light in the New England area. His story of inspiration began last year and continued with his speech to the children at the “Football for YOU” camp.
It began last April, when just days before the NFL draft, Cannon was diagnosed with cancer in the form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Cannon would have his first chemotherapy treatment on April 28th, Day One of the draft.
Originally considered a second-round draft choice, Cannon fell to the fifth round where the Patriots selected him. He would have three more chemotherapy treatments, the final coming on June 29th.
Cannon would start the season on the non-football injury list, as he was in remission but recovering from chemotherapy.
The Patriots would get off to a 5-1 start heading into their bye-week, and on their first day back on the practice fields, the team welcomed a new face — Marcus Cannon. More than six months since his diagnosis, Cannon was back on the field.
And on Week 11 on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, Marcus Cannon took to the field for the Patriots’ final scoring drive, going 14 plays for 62 yards with running back Shane Vereen capping it off with a touchdown.
“Seeing him in there was a little bit of a surprise, but when you dress for a game, you’ve got to be ready to go,” said guard Brian Waters post-game. “I think he did a pretty good job.”
Cannon would finish the season by playing in the team’s final six games of the regular season and the team’s three playoff games. Cannon also received the Ed Block Courage Award – an annual award, whose recipient is voted on by their teammates as the player who best becomes a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage.
“Of course, my story will always be there, and I thank God everyday,” said Cannon. “I am blessed and there is no way of putting it behind you. I am just looking forward to playing football.”
Then came Memorial Day this offseason, as Cannon gave a special gift to Iraq War veteran Robert Rodriguez.
On May 19, 2007, Rodriguez suffered serious head and shoulder injuries after being hit by an I.E.D. The injuries were so severe that they forced Rodriguez into medical retirement from the military and also cost him his ability to go hunting, one of his favorite pastimes.
Rodriguez was searching for a crossbow one day on Craigslist and spotted a deal. The seller, unknown to him at the time, was Cannon.
Once Cannon found out who his buyer was, Cannon decided to deliver the crossbow to Rodriguez at his home in Taunton, MA and then gave it to the Purple Heart recipient for free as a thank you.
“He’s a really, really nice guy to go out of his way [to] come from Foxboro to Taunton to deliver it to me,” said Rodriguez. Who now says he has a deeper love for both his hometown team, and for the crossbow.
“Sometimes people don’t understand what goes on over there. It’s nice that people acknowledge that hey, we’re behind, we’re backing you, and we support everything you do, and it’s nice to have something like that.”
By Nathan Rickard