It’s always been football, competing and proving the doubters wrong for Malik Cannon.

Through it all — and Cannon has been through a lot — those three things were a part of the motivation for the Longview standout, who cut his teeth in Jefferson.

“The day I was born,” Cannon said with a laugh when talking about his love for the game. “I knew early on that this was something I loved, something I wanted to do.”

It’s something that he will do at the next level as Cannon committed to Sul Ross State University to continue his football career.

It was football that was the main drive on June 26, 2018 when Cannon’s life dramatically changed. After an argument over a mutual girl friend, Cannon was shot eight times — in the left shoulder, right arm, twice in the the back, once in each leg and twice in the stomach, Chandler Vessels of ETSN reported.

All Cannon, who had an immediate impact on the Jefferson varsity team as a sophomore, could think about was returning to the field.

“Football was the motivation through it all,” Cannon said. “I wanted to play. With everything that happened, I was thinking about football. I wasn’t going to let that stop me.”

Cannon returned to the field less than two months later, Vessells reported, with a renewed focus and second chance. Deontra Tyre Lilly is currently serving two 15-year sentences for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the shooting of Cannon and Jefferson teammate Tybo Williams.

“For me, I wish I could’ve been more prepared or try to avoid that situation as much as possible,” Cannon said. “God has his ways of showing people that they’re on the wrong path, that this isn’t the way to go. I’m here now and I’m blessed.”

Competition is something that Cannon grew up with and was a driving force. After a big year at Jefferson as a junior, he transferred to Longview in the spring of 2019, hearing that he would struggle to be a starter.

“I was eager to prove the doubters wrong,” he said. “I heard that I couldn’t start at a place like Longview and that really motivated me to really push myself to start and make an impact.”

Those two things happened very quickly.

“That’s the first thing you noticed about Malik Cannon is that he was wide open from Day 1 for us and he just made that impression,” Longview head coach John King said. “He’s not scared to put in the work and is a guy that played his tail off. He loved game day, whether it was football or track. The guy was ready to go. Whether you like it or not, he’s going to compete.

“He’s a kid that is going to make the most of any opportunity. People slept on him and he’s a guy that plays like he’s 7-feet tall with his motor, his attitude, attributes and what kind of competitor he is.”

Cannon finished with 99 tackles, seven sacks, 18 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and six passes broken up during his senior season for the Lobos, earning him first-team Associated Press Sports Editors all-state honors.

Nothing has stopped Cannon from stepping on that field and he’s ready to take everything — the life lessons, the drive and the chip on his shoulder — with him to the next level.

“I just want to show up ready to go and show that I belong,” he said. “I’m just ready to get started again with football and my education.

“I’m ready to show them what I can do when I step on that field.”

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