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Oct. 30, 2014


The program player profile will be featured here after a home game. Senior offensive guard A.J. Cann was the fifth profile in the 2014 game program. Here is the feature that was in the game program for the Furman game.

By Noelle Colligan
Media Relations Student Assistant

Reese’s Pieces. That’s the secret according to senior offensive guard A.J. Cann. “I have a bag before we get on the bus for every game,” said Cann, with a grin on face. “If I haven’t had them, I feel like I don’t play as well.”

As much as Cann would like to chalk it up to his favorite candy, Gamecock fans, teammates and coaches would list other reasons for his tremendous ability: his determination and drive to succeed, his time and effort in the weight room and on the practice field, and his ability to lead serve as the foundation as to why the fifth-year senior has had so much success at Carolina.

“I was raised to make the right decisions, do things the right way, and do my job to the best of my ability.”

From the beginning, Cann knew that South Carolina was the perfect fit for him. Not only was it close to home, he claims, “It just felt right,” and he had already developed a close bond with the other players in his signing class. Also, he could not pass up the opportunity to play for the iconic coach, Steve Spurrier.

“Coach Spurrier demands that you hustle and always play at your best,” noted Cann. “100 percent (effort). That was how I was raised, so it was a great fit to play for this program.”

Those factors and his strong faith led him to choose South Carolina over his childhood team Virginia Tech.

“I got an offer from Tech, but God was just telling me that the University of South Carolina was the right place for me. God had a plan so I stuck with it.”

His decision was confirmed when he ran out to, “2001,” for the first time as a freshman, his favorite memory of playing here at Carolina. He said it was amazing to hear the crowd cheering him on so loudly, and it was at that moment where Cann feels like he, “Officially” become a Gamecock.

Cann has come a long way from his first time stepping out to the sound of, “2001,” and, “Sandstorm.” Cann has started 46 games, most of any current Gamecock on the roster and among the top-10 in school history. His favorite memories span from winning the Missouri game last year, beating Georgia this year and becoming a team captain.

Cann describes being a team captain as an opportunity to, “Show guys how to do things the right way and help them out.”

As a senior captain, he has grown as a leader as he has become more of a vocal leader rather than someone who leads only by example. He also developed a lifelong bond with quarterback Dylan Thompson, who he describes as his, “Brother,” and is, “Glad God put him in my life”.

However, the two tend to keep their friendship separate from football. He describes their relationship as business on the field, but sometimes their friendship shines through.

“I have to make sure he does not get touched, not just because he’s my quarterback, but also so I don’t have to hear about it all week,” said Cann.

Cann says his success is attributed to a lot of factors: his close relationship with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, the brotherhood bond with the rest of the Offensive Line and his family’s support. On top of that list is a deep understanding and belief in his faith.

“God led me to choose South Carolina, so I owe Him everything.”

Part of Cann’s pregame routine, is that right before kickoff he gets in a stretch in, “his spot” on the sidelines and says a quick prayer.

“Everyone plays for something, but I choose to play for Him,” stated Cann. “When you leave it all up to Him, you become a much better and freer person. Trust Him and good things will happen.”

His strong faith is in part due to his relationship with his his best friend, Thompson.

“I always grew up in church, but seeing how Dylan loved his life, and how faith made him a better person, it made me want to be like him. I wanted to join him on his journey”.

As for plans after this season, Cann hopes to continue his career in the NFL. “Playing in the NFL is not just my goal but my dream,” said Cann.

However, off the field, Cann has a pretty amazing backup plan. After participating in many community outreach programs at USC, Cann wants to start an after school program benefiting under privileged youth. The idea is to keep kids off the streets through helping them with homework, staying active by playing sports, and having a bible study to develop their faith. This inspiration stems from his relationship with his number one fan and smallest best friend, a 5-year old girl named Ciara.

Ciara and Cann met at an equestrian event last year, and became instant “friends”. “She’s so sweet, she comes to all the games and sometimes practice, I call her often to ask her how she’s doing and she always brightens my day”.

As Cann’s time in Garnet and Black comes to a close, the emotions are bittersweet. He explains his feelings as sad, but grateful for every snap. He stresses that this year he’s been playing as hard as he can, and starting to realize, “You can’t play this game forever”, causing him to appreciate everything more.

Yet, as much as Cann has contributed to Gamecock football over the past five years, he wants to be remembered as much more than that.

“I don’t want to be just a football player, but a great guy off the field. I want people to know I always do things the right way. I went to class, always respectful and on time, never got in off the field issues, just an overall good guy, not just a football player.”