September 5, 2005

A Jack (David) Of All Trades

Sept. 3, 2005

By Brianne Mallaghan
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Line dancing, off-roading and hunting small game are not necessarily hobbies you would think a six-foot-two, 282-pound offensive lineman would enjoy doing. But senior David Cannon is a six-foot-two, 282-pound offensive lineman, and he insists that those things highlight his list of off-season fun. And why not? Line dancing, off-roading and hunting small game are not your every day, boring kind of activities. And David Cannon is not your every day, boring kind of guy.

Cannon, who is a self-proclaimed "mountain boy," grew up in Export, Pa., about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. He began playing football when he was in the seventh grade and always had lofty expectations of himself. "I knew I wanted to play in college at a very early age," he said. "I just wanted to be the best I could be and take it as far as I could."

Fortunately for Holy Cross, he took his game to One College Street. "I liked the team atmosphere and the family atmosphere that surrounded the team," Cannon said, referring to his visits to the school. "The players on the team had a lot to do with my decision. I just felt welcome here."

And the Crusaders could not be happier to have him.

"David has a great football mind. The nature of the center position throws him into a leadership role and he has really taken to that," said offensive line coach Mike Pedone, who is in his 10th season on the Holy Cross staff. "He understands what we are trying to do out there. He understands the schemes that we are trying to implement. The game experience he brings to the table is invaluable to us. He just comes to work every day."

Cannon, who was a guard in high school, made the move to center his freshman year at Holy Cross. He had no previous experience hiking the ball. "It is definitely a bigger responsibility snapping the ball and making calls on the offensive line as opposed to just coming off the line and blocking somebody," he said. Despite assuming a greater responsibility, however, Cannon has been playing in a comfort zone of sorts. This will be his third full year snapping the ball to the same quarterback, in fellow senior John O'Neil.

"We have played together for a while, so I am used to hearing the same voice and knowing the rhythm behind his cadence makes the transition easier. I try to call different fronts or pick up different defenses so he can weigh his options, but he is definitely the brains behind the whole offense," Cannon said, laughing. "I relay the things that I see to him, but he is the one who ultimately checks the plays and makes the decision."

And the admiration is mutual.

"Dave and I have so much respect for each other. We have been together for so long and we know each other extremely well both on the field and off," said O'Neil. "He is a tremendous teammate and a tremendous friend. I wouldn't want anyone else to be my center and have been fortunate to have him lead the offensive line and block for me for three years."

The combination of Cannon and O'Neil will just scratch the surface for the Crusaders this year. Holy Cross is returning four of five starters on the offensive line and 10 of 11 overall on offense, and that has a lot of people excited.

"I am hoping for big things this year," said Cannon, who earned second team All-Patriot League honors last season. "I want to get this thing turned around. Our final game at Georgetown last year was like a springboard effect coming into this season. That last play of the game in overtime really gave us some motivation and coming into camp this year, a lot of the guys were very enthusiastic."

And rightfully so.

Holy Cross recently placed eight players (Luke Dugan, Sean Gruber, Steve Silva, Mike DeSantis, Casey Gough, Justin LaGrenade and Andrew Schoepfer) on the I-AA.org Patriot League preseason all-conference team, including Cannon, who was a first team preseason selection after anchoring an offense that produced 334.9 yards of total offense and 21.8 points per game in 2004.

"I'm looking to upset some other teams and surprise some people," said Cannon, a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan who says he tries to model his style of play after that of former Steelers' great and two-time Pro Bowler Tunch Ilkin, and current Steeler and three-time Pro Bowler Alan Faneca. "Faneca is just a nasty guy and Ilken was great with his hands so I try to keep those things in mind when I get out onto the field."

As far as the things he keeps in mind when he is not on the field, well that is a different story.

"I hunt, I fish, I drag race," said Cannon, who opened up a brand new bow and arrow for Christmas last year. "My father introduced me to hunting when I was about 11 years old and I just loved it. It is very relaxing to be out in the woods and it also gives us quality time together."

Cannon said he has gone home each of the last three years for the beginning of deer season, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. "It is pretty much a state holiday in Pennsylvania, so I never wanted to miss it." While the exact time frame of hunting season varies, it usually runs the two weeks following the end of football season, which fits nicely into Cannon's busy schedule. "I always tried to be there for opening day and made sure to extend my Thanksgiving break a day or two," he said, laughing.

A Chemistry major, Cannon also owns a truck, which he often takes off-roading. He has even taken up line dancing. "I learned how to line dance back home and I have been doing it for about a year now."

The closeness Cannon shares with is family extends to the football field as well. His parents, David, who was a defensive lineman at Indiana (Pa.) University and Patricia, have been in attendance at every Holy Cross football game - home and away - throughout his career. "They have not missed a game. It's awesome. I don't think they realize how much I appreciate their support," he said. "They travel all over the place to be there and it means a lot having someone in the stands."

Cannon admits that it will be hard for him to hang up his cleats when the season is over, but the all-conference lineman from Pennsylvania has a bright and very busy future to look forward to. "Even after we are done playing here and even after graduation, I am still going to talk to these guys. We will still have that bond, that camaraderie," he said. "I have made friends for life here."

Friends for life to go fishing and hunting with. And maybe even a little off-roading and line dancing.

That's the life. Just ask David Cannon.