Zachary High School defensive back P.J. Cannon is a no-nonsense player who really gets it.
In this case “it” means high school football and the perceptions other people have of him.
“I know I’m not an eye-candy guy,” Cannon said. “I’m not one of those cornerbacks who’s 6-foot-2 or 6-3 or a guy all the colleges want.
“Using the ability I have to make plays … that’s what I try to do. I spend more time watching film. I work hard. I have no control over the other stuff.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Cannon doesn’t have the right stuff to be an impact player. He’s a senior and a three-year starter who will be expected to play a key role when the second-seeded Broncos (12-1) host No. 6 Parkway (12-1) for a Class 5A semifinal game set for 7 p.m. Friday.
“P.J. wants to be involved in everything,” defensive backs coach Chris Carrier said. “He wants to play defense, return kicks and be involved in the offense.
“We have to slow him down and say ‘Hey wait a minute, you’re too valuable to us on defense.’ So we do limit what he does in some ways. He goes all out on every play. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to be physical. He can cover a bigger receiver and he’ll come up and hit the running back, too.”
Want a comparison from Carrier, a former LSU defensive back? Carrier sees Cannon’s impact as being similar to that of another 5-9 player, former LSU defensive back Tyrann Matthieu of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Broncos are never reluctant to match Cannon with a top receiver from the opposing team, which is notable because Parkway’s pass-oriented offense is led by quarterback Keondre Wudtee, a Louisiana Tech commitment.
“(Wudtee) throws the deep ball really well,” Cannon said. “That’s not something we handled well early in the year. But over the last month we’ve really improved on that. We know it won’t be easy.”
Zachary got a boost from the return of a several injured players in its front defensive seven over the past few weeks. Cannon knows that containing Wudtee and pressuring him will be pivotal.
The fact that Zachary coach David Brewerton is prepared to use a couple of top receivers, Doug Coleman and Shyron White, on defense also is notable.
“I like bringing those guys (Coleman and White) over to defense to make us better,” Cannon said. “You do whatever you need to do to win, and they can definitely help us.”
Cannon enters the semifinal game with three interceptions and also ranks among the Broncos’ leaders in tackles. He’s also a baseball standout as a shortstop.
Given his size, it would be easy to pigeon-hole Cannon as a college baseball prospect. Though he’s not ready to close that door, Cannon says he’d prefer to play college football. An honor student who plans to major in nursing, Cannon currently has a baseball offer from Southern and a football offer from Louisiana College.
“In recruiting, sometimes you have to be patient,” Carrier said. “All it takes is one coach to see you and like you.”
Brewerton definitely likes what he sees in Cannon.
“P.J. is so consistent and steady,” Brewerton said. “I don’t believe he’s ever missed a practice, even when he’s banged up. He’s the guy who puts on that hard hat every day and goes to work. You know exactly what you’re getting with him.”