- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas -- The K.D. Cannon you see today wasn’t created by hype and big stats.
Those endless days of summer in Mount Pleasant are what made Cannon the state of Texas’ top junior wide receiver.
Every weekday, he and his father, Keith Thompson, got up at 8 a.m. and got to work. First came the morning session, loaded with cone drills and strength training. Those workouts usually didn’t wrap up until noon.
They’d hit the practice field again around 3 p.m. and stay until 5. Every day, more of the same: Route running and lots more route running. As a sophomore, Cannon’s best and only move was sprinting deep on fade routes. He needed a full repertoire.
Thompson often liked to load up a tennis ball machine with 50 or more and watch as his son snared yellow ball after yellow ball, ensuring he would learn to catch only with his hands.
“He pushed me to do the best I can do,” Cannon said. “He worked me out every morning and every afternoon to try to make me be the best I can be.”
Cannon admits he’s still a long ways away from reaching his potential, and that’s just plain scary.
The 2014 wide receiver prospect with offers from Texas, Oklahoma and nearly a dozen other schools knew the attention he has received on the recruiting trail wouldn’t make for an easy junior year.
The numbers he’s putting up this year for Mount Pleasant -- 67 catches for 1,053 yards and 18 touchdowns – would suggest nothing has changed. Not true.
“He gets double-teamed and triple-teamed quite a bit, and he still makes 10 to 12 catches a game,” Thompson said. “That’s pretty tough to do.”
Not bad for a kid who didn’t play receiver until his freshman year of high school. Until age 12, in fact, he’d never played football. He’d always preferred the quiet intensity of baseball.
But that’s Cannon for you. Quiet and intense.
“If you get a couple words out of him, you’re doing real good,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t try to be a vocal leader. He says he lets his actions speak for themselves.”
Cannon fits in well in Mount Pleasant, a town of 15,000 located two hours west of Dallas and an hour east of Texarkana. His father works in a power plant. His mother is a pharmacist. He wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s a small town, but it’s a great town,” Cannon said. “It’s really quiet. I kind of like being in a small town. Lots of peace and quiet.”
That won’t last much longer. The coveted 6-foot-1, 165-pound speedster knows he’s in for a stressful recruiting process once he starts devoting his full attention to it this winter.
Ever since Oklahoma became the first to offer a scholarship this summer, Cannon’s phone hasn’t stop ringing. The letters from recruiters pile up in his mailbox.
Texas and Oklahoma are his two favorite schools so far, but beyond that he’s not exactly sure what comes next.
“It’s all surprised me a lot,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it much, but it happened so fast.”
For Thompson, this opportunity is one his family will treasure. He played football at Trinity Valley Community College. But he didn’t experience anything like this in his heyday.
He knows Cannon has a chance to achieve something special, but to also set a standard for his three siblings. A full-ride scholarship isn’t something to be taken for granted.
“I’m having the opportunities he never had, and he wants me to be better than he was,” Cannon said.
His father’s workouts have done wonders for his game, but they’ve also been a boost for Cannon’s confidence. When he isn’t getting the ball thrown his way this fall, the normally reserved receiver gets talking.
Off the field, he’s as hushed and humble as usual. Except, of course, for his haircut.
It started this spring during track season. The guys on his relay team dyed their hair for a regional meet. He tried it, too, and it stuck.
Cannon has been sporting that thick blonde stripe down the left side of his head ever since. His father chuckles now when it gets brought up.
“I actually like it,” Thompson said. “It’s something different. It’s become kind of his trademark now.”
When Cannon showed up at football camps across the state this summer, he often heard two familiar questions: What’s with the hair, and where is Mount Pleasant?
“I had to explain that to everybody,” he said.
Those camps helped build his reputation, but Cannon realizes what he does now is far more important. He knows that if he stops working and starts listening to how good people say he is, he’ll waste this opportunity.
The small-town receiver has a handful of big goals, and one matters just as much to him as the catches and yards and scores. Cannon is ready to put Mount Pleasant on the map.
“We don’t have a lot of people from Mount Pleasant that actually went somewhere,” he said. “This is important to me.”