Several years ago, Joe Cannon played quarterback at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee until his senior season, when he switched to cornerback and helped lead the Hilltoppers to a 14-0 record and a state title. Now, Cannon is a 6-foot-0, 175-pound Northwestern walk-on who is expected to play cornerback for the Wildcats' scout team and who serendipitously decided to visit a football practice at his alma mater.
You see, currently leading MUHS' defense is Conor Sheehy, a junior defensive end recruit who, according to WisSports.net, benched 255 pounds and squatted 495 pounds at Wisconsin's state powerlifting meet last March.
"Yeah, [Cannon] actually was the one that connected me with Northwestern," Sheehy told PurpleWildcats.com "I saw him at one of my practices, and I think it was his dad, he thought I was a year older and he said, ‘You know, Northwestern's got one more D-line spot open? You gotta get down there, you gotta get down there!' And I was like, ‘I got two years left.'"
Despite not yet sitting in a high school class as a junior, though, Sheehy has seemingly inspired similar enthusiasm among Big Ten coaches. The second-team all-Great Metro performer has already picked up offers this summer from Wisconsin and Michigan and attracted interest from Northwestern and Michigan State.
"[The recruiting process] hit me pretty quick," Sheehy said. "I just heard it's a good thing to go to camps and get your name out there, and that's what it did for me, I guess. It came pretty quick, and I heard it gets faster and faster as it goes along."
During his trip to Northwestern this past weekend, Sheehy met with coaches, toured the football facilities and campus, and met with an academic services adviser.
He left without an offer – as Northwestern said it wants to see him play in person first – but with a very strong first impression.
"I really enjoyed all the coaches and everything they had to say," Sheehy said. "I really liked what Coach Fitzgerald had to say – he seems like a really straightforward kind of guy. He's an Irish guy like me, so he – you know, like they say, he's the newest old-school kind of guy, so I really enjoyed that about him."
On top of his pleasant first taste of Northwestern's football program as a recruit, Sheehy's mother is an NU alum, and he recalls visiting the campus as a kid.
For those going up against Sheehy, it is likely difficult to imagine him as a kid.
Scout.com national recruiting analyst Allen Trieu has described Sheehy as "big and powerful" and reported that the Wisconsin native bowled "over a couple of would be blockers" while also "showing some agility for a bigger kid" at a camp at the University of Michigan.
Sheehy, meanwhile, said his M.O. is simply doing "whatever it takes to get to the quarterback."
With two years of high school football remaining, it can be expected that Sheehy's list of suitors will expand, and he emphasized that it is still early in the process for him.
"I honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to choose who I would play football for," Sheehy said in disbelief. "I just knew I always wanted to play college football, so I'm very open to any school."
And as for any Wildcat fans hoping his mother's ties to the school will serve as leverage? Sheehy said he wouldn't count on it.
"My dad went to Madison, so they're kind of on opposite ends there."