Luck of the…Horned Frog?!

Posted: May 20, 2011 in NCAA

Yesterday I read a spectacular piece by Rick Reilly, as they always are, on ESPN.com and I wanted to share this story because it shows that there is always more to sports than just winning and that teams can do more than just what is best for them. They have the resources and the tools to take a chance on someone and truly make difference. Before I get started, remember everyone you can do what you want, you’re capable, nothing is impossible and if nothing else, I will believe in you as long as you believe in yourself.

The NFL draft is a life achievement for many college football players. It is the first step in the long interview process for being hired as an employee of the NFL. Player’s are put through rigorous drills, strength and conditioning tests, and also medical exams. Normally the medical exams are a formality, as most injuries as disclosed during the season or off season and everything in college sports in under a fine microscope.

This year however there was something different, something that you wouldn’t think would show on a normal scouting report or should be a serious deciding factor in a team’s decision. This is the part of the story where we are introduced to Marcus Cannon, a monster of a man at 6’5 and weighs just over 350 pounds. The TCU offensive lineman was a standout on the line this year and has been described at able to play any position on the line except center. Many had believed he would be picked in the late 20s going into the annual NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. That prediction changed when he got to the combine.

NFL teams look at their draft prospects like farmers look at new cattle, they want to make sure there are no flaws whatsoever before they bring them into their heard. Personalities are over analyzed, physical tools are measured and tested again and again…and again. Countless times these tests really mean nothing about ones potential in the league as their resume in college usually tells a better story. This time the test that had everybody talking was the medical exams, and they weren’t talking positively.

Indianapolis was looking at Marcus to help fill in some holes and provide much needed help on the offensive line. A monster that could protect their prize quarterback Peyton Manning, they interviewed Cannon and performed their analysis. Upon discovery of the lump that Marcus had been told time and again not to worry about, they immediately ordered tests to be performed. That piece of over observant and constantly looking for a flaw mentality could be the one that saved his life.

A full biopsy was performed and for the first time the monster of a man who had been told it was nothing up until now, was told it was everything. The diagnosis came back as non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the National Cancer Institute defines NHL as “Any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells).” This of course was devastating news. Forget the fact that his draft stock could plummet to the point of not even being taken, his life was at an unknown cross roads.

According to Rick Reilly he didn’t know what to do, so he did the only thing he could do and he got away from there. He got into his pick up truck and just drove, and he cried, he collapsed. This is the kind of news that will break anyone, even if they are the size of an industrial fridge.
“I really didn’t think any team would take me now,” Cannon was quoted as saying about one of his first thoughts of the diagnosis. Typical thinking of a pro athlete, a true competitor, beating the disease was not a concern but what he would do after it was already on his mind. Luckily he didn’t have to wait very long to find out the answer.

On draft day he said he couldn’t even bear to watch the draft, and understandably, why watch and see how many teams will pass you up and how many times they’ll do it? The first day he hung around, not watching the draft knowing he wouldn’t get picked but couldn’t bring himself to do anything else. The second day of the draft he went fishing with roommate and teammate Colin Jones, a common form of draft distraction used by many player’s to get away from any and everything related to the draft. Hopefully some of you remember when Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, who went 3rd in his draft, boycotted the draft to go fishing also.

However on the third day of the draft the New England Patriots did something very out of character and almost saint like. This of course given their recent history is very out of character, but they decided to take a chance. With the 138th pick of the 2011 draft the New England Patriots select…Marcus Cannon. The phone rang and in typical fashion it read as an unavailable number, and then Marcus knew his life has changed.

Which brings to mind why more teams don’t take on this role and look to help out? With the medical professionals these teams hire, and the facilities they inhabit why not give someone a chance? His talent is there and the disease was in early stages therefore very treatable. He’s also a professional athlete calibre before being a pro, which would help his recovery process no? To me this is a fantastic act of kindness by an organization that can do this type of good over and over again. Any team is capable of this gesture, they just have to do it.

Now it is convenient that the Patriots were loaded in this draft so spending a later pick on a “risk” isn’t taking that much of a chance, but it’s still a chance. After reading a blog update today on Marcus he says that the small lump that used to be there on his stomach has practically disappeared now and I couldn’t be happier. If I ever wished the best upon an athlete overcoming true adversity, it is him. I want this kid to become a hall of famer, dominate the line for at least 10 years to come. This act of kindness not always seen in professional sports should remind everyone else that you can make a difference, and sometimes a chance is all we need.

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