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Panthers' Trenton Cannon revives career as special teams champion
2017 CIAA offensive player of year earns roster spot
 
Published Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

COURTESY CAROLINA PANTHERS
Trenton Cannon, a 2018 sixth-round pick by the Jets, has revived his career as a versatile special teams player with the Carolina Panthers. Cannon, the 2017 CIAA offensive player of the year at Virginia State, helped the Trojans to a 25-6 record by rushing for 4,035 yards and 44 touchdowns over three seasons.

Special teams are Trenton Cannon’s NFL lifeline.


The Carolina Panthers running back is on the opening day roster because he can play on all four squads, including gunner on punts, which helped him beat out Reggie Bonnafon as the third tailback to Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis. Making the squad is an accomplishment for Cannon, 26, a 2018 sixth-round pick by the Jets who cut him in August after he was limited to four games last year and went on the injured list with ankle, hamstring and foot ailments.


“I’m excited to be back and basically just excited for my first game after sitting out last year and working my way back on the field,” he said. “Just being able to play this weekend, I’m soaking in this whole weekend.”


Cannon, the 2017 CIAA offensive player of the year as a senior at Virginia State, was one of the top Division II players in the country during his time with the Trojans. He rushed for 4,035 yards and scored 44 touchdowns over three seasons, helping VSU to a 25-6 record during that span, including a 10-0 senior campaign.


“Playing at an HBCU was the best,” he said. “My sophomore year I transferred to Virginia State (from Shepherd in West Virginia). Transferring was probably the best decision I ever made …the school itself, and the football, of course. It was great.”


Cannon was also one of the nation’s top kick returners at VSU, which caught the Jets’ attention and helped him make the transition to the NFL special teams. When the Jets released him, Cannon had a job the next day in Carolina.


“I played quite a bit of special teams my rookie year and I did really good at the gunner position,” he said. “I played all four phases on special teams, so I had film from there. I knew I’d be picked up. I knew there’d be teams interested in me.”

Chase Blackburn, Carolina’s special teams coordinator, found plenty to like in Cannon, especially his aggressive approach to making plays.


“I like his speed, I like his toughness and his effort,” Blackburn said. “His work ethic really stood out. That’s one of the things from day one that really stood out. He had a relentless pursuit of the football and that was a key factor for us.”


Outside of the obvious changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic Cannon’s third NFL season has been a success. Unlike a rookie’s experience, he found the rhythms of training camp are similar.


“It’s way different from rookie year,” Cannon said. “I’m a veteran now, so I’m kind of used [to it.] Even though I traded teams, I’m used to everything at this point, so it was kind of like easy for me coming in, and I was welcomed.”


Special teams are the reason Cannon is in Charlotte, but the door is open to how much his role will entail. He’s proven capable of playing every phase, but he also has to prepare for the possibility of getting some touches.


“Right now, I’m concentrating on special teams where I’m needed,” he said. “I’m also focused on the running back position, of course. I’m the third running back right now, so that’s been trying to stay on top of that. And, hopefully, down the road, I could get more involved in offense.”


Said Blackburn: “I see him contributing in all the different areas. He has some position flex and versatility and obviously as this unfolds and the roster makeup comes to the active roster on game day, that’ll dictate what he’s doing and everything else, but I definitely see him being a major contributor to the success that we could have.”   

Comments

Trenton Cannon is a Beast.... and I just hope that the Panthers will uncage the Beast. Good Speed, Good Hands, and Good Pursuit of the Football. He was a Terror in College Division II. If the Panthers will only give him a break and let him play, then they will see his ability is almost limitless.
Posted on September 9, 2020
 

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