Star Santa Ana wide receiver Cannon King was never supposed to play football.
Growing up in Los Angeles, King set his focus on baseball.
From a young age, Cannon had a large interest in the sport, starting tee ball at four years old.
“Baseball became a significant part of my life, thanks to my brother Chance and our shared love for the game,” said King. “Our dad played a crucial role in this love for the sport as well. Being an avid “bleed-blue” Dodger fan, He was even at Jackie Robinson’s first game, which to this day, still astonishes me. My dad’s connection to that rich history made it inevitable that I would grow to love baseball.”
Cannon’s father, the late renowned media host Larry King, made sure he instilled that love of the game into his sons.
“My parents always provided unwavering support for my athletic journey. My dad always had concerns about the potential for injuries in football and my mom loves watching me play any sport, said King, “Once I got to high school, baseball was all that I competed in.”
Cannon made such an impression during his time playing baseball that the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the 2018 MLB draft. However, he would defer, instead choosing to serve a mission for his church.
However, during his mission tragedy struck for the King family.
“I received a call that my Dad was very sick and I came home after four months of being on my mission. The next few months consisted of a lot of internal battles, including deep anxiety, depression, confusion, and sadness. I had been in a dark, dark place,” said King.
His father would die from sepsis in 2021, with an underlying cause of acute hypoxic respiratory failure.
In a family statement, Cannon wrote “We knew without a doubt in the world that he loves us more than life itself, he was an amazing father…we will miss him every single day of our lives.”
Throughout that period of grief, Cannon leaned on his family, specifically his cousin, Dallen Engemann.
“While I was home, my cousin Dallen was a literal life-saver, being there for me when I needed him and stepping in when things were at their hardest,” said King.
The two grew up together, forming a brotherly bond.
“We were extremely close,” said Engemann as he reminisced about the past, “We loved it when they came into town during Christmas break. Every year the break was filled with fun times and competition. A lot of heated rivalries were formed in Madden leagues, pick-up basketball, wiffle ball, or any other activity we could compete in. Even though the competition was intense, we all cheered for the success of each other.”
“Our family is a big football family,” continued Engemann, “Many of our relatives played football in college and some at the professional level. In fact, Cannon’s older brother Danny is a Quarterback who spent some time with the Oakland Raiders.”
They had a radical idea in their time spent together during lockdown.
“During Covid lockdown, I was recovering from a shoulder surgery. I needed somebody to catch for me as I made my way back to health, and Cannon was that guy for me. Cannon would make little comments while catching for me like ‘I love football, I wish I would’ve played in high school’. At the time he was just catching for me as my cousin, not as my teammate. Then one day out of the blue he decided he was going to take a risk and try to play college football, which is not an easy thing to just jump into.”
After he made that decision, Cannon worked tirelessly to achieve his dream. He reached out to ex-NFL player Bret Lockett, who helped him develop skills to play receiver.
“When I played flag football as a kid, I played most of those years as a quarterback.” said King, “I knew pretty much nothing about playing receiver other than you have to run fast and catch the rock. The next few months consisted of throwing myself into the fire, running routes against Division I defensive backs, and soaking in all the information that I could.”
All of his training would appear to pay off with him and Dallen earning roster spots on the College of the Canyons football team. Unfortunately, he would suffer stress fractures in both shins, ending his season before it started.
“That offseason, Dallen and I started filming our workouts and sending them to other schools. One of those schools was Santa Ana College, the only school that reached back out to us. Coach White responded quickly and positively. SAC was immediately an attractive landing spot.”
“Cannon King and Dallen Engemann reached out to me through social media,” said the Dons’ Head Coach Anthony White. “They are from Utah and saw that I have huge Utah ties, being an Alumni of the University of Utah. They researched our Program, the School, and our Team and asked if they would be able to be a part of it.”
“To be able to come in late summer and have Dallen end the season as the starting Quarterback and Cannon an incredible contributor on offense at Wide receiver – we’re grateful and appreciative to have them,” said Coach White.
Dons offensive coordinator Geoff Jones offered his perception of King, “He is a rare and extremely interesting person. He is incredibly knowledgeable about football even though he hasn’t played much.” said Jones, “He is introspective and mature beyond his years. He is in tune with his body mechanics like I have never seen in an athlete. He’s like a Ferrari that needs a special set of tools and attention and he is always working on it.”
Last year King and Engemann made brief appearances, but this year they earned the role of starting for the team. “ Looking back, I must say it’s pretty awesome that what we used to envision and pray about is literally happening, thanks to discipline, patience, and faith,” King proclaimed.
“I’ve learned so many valuable lessons through experience. Throughout the journey to this point, when not many others believed in me, I held tight to the opinions of those who did believe in me and the opinion that I was developing of myself. I wanted to prove to myself how far I could go, and I’m still going.”
Engemann would add on, saying “People would make little small jabbing comments suggesting he wouldn’t be able to do it. That being said, Cannon didn’t doubt himself, he maintained a growth mindset and trained relentlessly. Now, Cannon is a big-time receiver and a legitimate prospect. It’s been awesome for me to see his progression, truly amazing.”
Through four games into the season, King has been a staple to Santa Ana’s offense, making diving touchdown catches in the back of the endzone against Santa Monica or extending a ten-yard pass into a 50-yard play against Pasadena City. He currently has 337 yards receiving and three touchdowns to start the season.
“It’s fun to look back on the journey up to this point. From playing two-hand touch football in the backyard as kids to connecting on passes at the Santa Ana Bowl. Playing college football together is an experience neither of us would’ve predicted when we were kids, but one we’ll cherish forever.”
This amazing feat isn’t the end for Cannon as he says “I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned from the sport and apply them to real-life situations. I hope to do the same with my daily life experiences and apply them to my football life.”
“I’m not certain exactly what I will do outside of football down the road, but I’m looking into studying more kinesiology, with hopes that I may have a positive impact on other athletes in the realm of personal training or physical therapy”, continued King, “I’m also not opposed to getting into the entertainment industry! But who knows?! Time will tell. As for right now, I’m focused on taking my body as far as it will let me go in this sport.”