Virginia State’s Trenton Cannon drafted by New York Jets

5/4/2018, 8:42 a.m.
Virginia State University’s Trenton Cannon has shown the CIAA the special talents he has on a football field. Now he ...
Trenton Cannon scores big James Haskins/Richmond Free press

Virginia State University’s Trenton Cannon has shown the CIAA the special talents he has on a football field.

Now he hopes to show the NFL.

“I can’t believe I’m a New York Jet,” Cannon said after being selected by the New York Jets last Saturday in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas.

“This is what I’ve worked for and dreamed of since I was a kid,” he said.

Known as “Boom,” the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Cannon from Hampton rewrote the record book wearing the Trojans’ orange and blue.

In three seasons at VSU after transferring from Shepherd University in West Virginia, the running back became VSU’s all-time leader in rushing yardage (4,246) and rushing touchdowns (44).

He led VSU to an undefeated regular season and CIAA title in 2017. He was named CIAA Offensive Player of the Year and the winner of the Lanier Award as Virginia’s best small college player.

In 11 games as a senior, Cannon rushed for 1,638 yards (7.7 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns.

A receiving threat as well, Cannon had 21 pass receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

He also has been a dynamic kickoff returner, averaging 32.6 yards per chance with three career touchdowns.

Soon after Cannon’s named was called by the Jets, he was phoned by the Jets’ general manager, Mike Maccagnan.

“We’re real excited about this pick,” Maccagnan told Cannon. “We think you have a lot of skills that can help us, especially with returns and runbacks.”

Maccagnan then handed the phone to Jets special teams Coach Brant Boyer.

“Can’t wait to see you,” Boyer told Cannon. “Come and get ready to go to work.”

Cannon was timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Trojans Pro Day, but it is his ability to change directions at full speed that makes him such a nightmare for tacklers.  

The versatile back becomes VSU’s first NFL draft selection since defensive end Kelvin Kinney was taken by Washington in the sixth round of the 1996 draft.

VSU offensive lineman James Brown was taken in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. Brown went on to play 114 NFL games, including 86 as a starter.

Prior to Brown, VSU offensive tackle Mike Hayes, from Richmond’s John Marshall High, was drafted in 1974 by the New York Giants.

Two of the most famous VSU players reaching the NFL were James Mitchell of Danville, who played on the defensive line for the Detroit Lions 1970 to 1977, and Larry Brooks, from Prince George County, who starred on the defensive line for the Los Angeles Rams 1972 to 1983.

In all, 10 Trojans have been drafted, starting with defensive back Lyn Hart in 1965 by the Buffalo Bills.

Cannon was not heavily recruited coming out of Hampton’s Kecoughtan High School and played sparingly as a freshman at Shepherd University.

He came into his own as a VSU Trojan, setting single season rushing records as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Of the Jets’ six draft picks, Cannon is the lone offensive back.

“Trojan Nation, I want to thank you for the all the love and support,” Cannon said. “But the work has just begun. New York, let’s get to work.”