The fulfillment of his plan came in the form of a scholarship to Maryland, where there was an exodus of receivers after the 2005 season. He needed to take an online algebra class in high school to become eligible for enrollment, teaching himself a full year of math in a semester to secure a place with the Terps.
Yet once he joined the team, his mind wandered. Brandon Miller, his quarterback at Avondale High School and a year younger than him, was involved in a serious car crash back home. Cannon prayed daily, hoping he could receive guidance and figure out if College Park was the right place for him.
Miller ultimately recovered and joined Division II Grand Valley State’s program, and Cannon remained at Maryland. He thrived academically, but the only thing consistent about his football career was inconsistency.
In spurts, he’d look like a future star. At other times, he seemed hopelessly buried on the depth chart.
It appeared he might play a substantial role last fall. But after two catches in the first three games, he barely played until the bowl game. Frustrated, even his academics took a tumble last fall, which led to significant conversations with his mother.
“I just wasn’t focused or [had] my priorities right,” said Cannon, whose mother’s image is tattooed on his left arm. “I got those together and I realized [what was important]. I talked to my mom, and she kept me grounded. She basically said you have to take advantage of the opportunities you have. It doesn’t come around [a lot] and it can be taken away like that.”
His turnaround began in the Humanitarian Bowl, when he took a short pass on the third play and scampered 59 yards for his first career touchdown. Shortly after the season, he and Ralph Friedgen shared a long discussion in which the coach emphasized the importance of renewing his zeal for work.
Cannon rebounded in the classroom, compiling a 3.25 GPA in the spring. He also connected with Turner, emerging as a favored target throughout the spring and summer.
“He’s kind of like a Michael Crabtree,” said Turner, referring to the former Texas Tech star. “He’s faster than people think. He runs really good routes. He’s a big body. There’s plays where I’m sitting [in the film room with offensive coordinator James Franklin] and he says, ‘Why did you go to Cannon on this play?’ And I’ll say, ‘I like my matchup. I like Cannon on so-and-so.’ ”
The entire program could feel the same way this season. Turner, now without the reliable Danny Oquendo, needs a third-down target. And now that Heyward-Bey is playing for the Oakland Raiders, the Terps are seeking a new primary wideout.
Cannon might just fill both roles.
“It’s just amazing how his confidence has changed in his whole life,” Friedgen said. “He’s on a mission to be a good player and to win. … He’s kind of driven right now.”
Holding on to a starting position is Cannon’s next step. Last year’s foibles reminded him of the vast divide between the results from maximum effort and only marginal interest.
“He is very caring person,” Shirla Cannon said. “He wants to go a long way. If he wants to be successful, I think he will get there if he keeps a clear mind.”
Given Adrian Cannon’s record of living up to his promises, there’s a good chance he’ll begin to savor that success this fall.