Written by: Parker Bowring, McGrady Xia, Yu Wei
Matthew Cannon is a Southern Utah University Football Alum turned lawyer known for his precision on and off the field. During an interview, Cannon reflected on fond memories with teammates and lessons learned.
Cannon played on the SUU football team from 1997 to 2000, but his journey with SUU began in 1996 when he took a recruiting trip to SUU. The T-Bird’s interest in Cannon stemmed from the fact that SUU football had recently incorporated an offense similar to Cannon’s high school team, Highland High in Salt Lake City, not to mention that Cannon was chosen as the 5A MVP in Utah. Cannon was impressed by the program. He remembered that when he witnessed the team in action, he could see the team building momentum and was thrilled about the potential to be a part of its development.
During the recruiting trip, Cannon was introduced to former players Brook Madsen and Joe Dupaix. Though Cannon only marveled at their skills at the time, the two would go on to become not only reliable teammates, but also role models for Cannon. Madsen and Dupaix were dedicated to the Thunderbirds and exceedingly optimistic about the school and team alike, ultimately leaving an immense impression on Cannon. Their commitment to the SUU Football program inspired Cannon to begin his journey. Cannon expressed his gratitude for the two revealing that his admiration for Dupaix and Madsen "extended far beyond the field. They represented everything I wanted to be as a student-athlete and as a person. I am forever grateful for them."
Madsen and Dupaix showed Cannon what it meant to be a part of the T-Bird family. Madsen was a fullback at SUU from 1995 to 1999 and Cannon's roommate during his freshman year. Cannon remembers frequently devouring Top Ramen and organizing late-night foosball competitions. Cannon recalled one particular memory when he and Jen (now spouse), along with a few other teammates and girlfriends, drove up one of the beautiful canyons of Southern Utah for s'mores. "We invited another teammate who was tasked with supplying the firewood, and he came through with a huge bundle of professionally packaged wood. With the statute of limitations passed, I can now comfortably voice my suspicion that it is possible that this wood was not obtained in the traditional stream of commerce," joked Cannon as he reminisced on his fond memories of meeting new people and experiencing college with lifelong friends.
While reflecting on the great leaders he encountered during his time with the Thunderbirds, Cannon spoke highly of Dupaix, a senior student and quarterback of the football team during Cannon's first year. Dupaix was one of the best natural leaders Cannon had ever met and was another significant influence in choosing to go to SUU. Dupaix is currently a football coach for the esteemed Naval Academy.
Great memories, lasting friendships, and sore knees are only a few of the lasting impressions that SUU had on Cannon. The football program opened up many incredible possibilities and opportunities for him, such as playing football in Europe, getting a good job, and contributing amusing stories to tell his four daughters.
One such story took place in 2001, when Cannon received the opportunity to play for the Hamburg Blue Devils in the German Football League. He remembers the smell of beer and bratwurst that filled St. Pauli Stadium, where they played their home games. Matt was very nervous because he wanted to make a good impression on the fans and keep their enthusiasm high.
In warmups, Cannon's receiver ran an easy five yard route and Cannon dropped back to "tee off" in the receiver's direction. But the ball flew five feet above the receiver's outstretched arm. "Embarrassed by the errant throw, I took a deep breath and connected with my receivers on my next few passes." However, a teammate soon drew Cannon’s attention to the opponent's sideline. Matt noticed a small group of paramedics gathered so he walked over toward the group and found at the center of the commotion a cheerleader with blood on her face and uniform. "My first pass had hit the opposing team's head cheerleader in the face, breaking her nose. My heart sank. I apologized profusely (in German nonetheless) but received only international signs in response," said Cannon. Experiences such as this helped him to face failure better, and his positive attitude makes him better prepared for future challenges.
There is no denying that Cannon had a great and memorable time as an SUU Student-Athlete. In 1999, SUU played against Weber State and won 39-7. One particular play stood out for Matt as he described a fourth down and goal where he was being tackled by numerous Wildcats just short of the goal line.. “As I was falling to the ground I managed to toss the ball back to Brook Madsen, who then ran in the endzone for a touchdown. It was definitely a “back-yard” type of play.”" Cannon also reflected on their win at McNeese State in Louisiana “a year after they had destroyed us at home." The loss in the first matchup with McNeese State was a constant reminder of how much they still needed to improve and motivated Matt and his teammates to keep improving to compete with a toughest of opponents. In the rematch, "McNeese provided a hostile crowd and environment, but our defense came through and secured the win." Cannon's dad flew in to support the Thunderbirds for the big game and took Cannon and a few of his teammates out for a hearty gator and frog legs dinner after the game. "The 'restaurant' was more of a bar and I felt like I was getting a good "taste" of Louisiana," Cannon said. Though he never wants to try frog legs again, the most endearing part of the trip, to Cannon, was "being there with my dad and some of my close friends Brook, Josh Roberts, and Eric Gunnerson."
Looking back on his career as a student-athlete, Cannon expressed his gratitude to his parents and wife for their help. Cannon believes that his family had the greatest impact on his life as a student-athlete. Cannon said "my dad was my little league football coach who helped me find the joy in football, hard work and winning. Through my parents’ examples and occasional express instruction, I was provided at a young age the foundation of work, passion, fun, attitude, and diligence."
Despite the wonderful college life and the unforgettable friendship between him and his teammates, there are still some small regrets in Cannon's sports career. If he could go back to college, he would tell himself, "worry less about what people think about you and just always be yourself," Cannon continued, "I would also tell myself that it was okay to run out of bounds on occasion and to be careful with the hits to the head."
Recognizing the importance of teamwork and respecting all contributions are two of the most important aspects Cannon learned from collegiate football. "We all have different roles and responsibilities at the firm, and when working together toward a common goal, we have found great success. Teamwork is critical," said Cannon. He works with a team of over 150 people at the law firm of Ray Quinney & Nebeker P.C. in Salt Lake City, "and recognizing and respecting all contributions leads to a more positive and winning environment."
There is no doubt about what it means to be a T-bird: dedication, passion, and performance. Through his experiences as an SUU student-athlete, Cannon was given the tools to develop a successful game plan for his life after SUU. "My experience taught me that hard work, teamwork, and a positive attitude will put me in a better position to address the next challenge. I am very grateful for athletics and my time at SUU," said Cannon.