Jim Cann wasn’t quick like a Barry Sanders or an Emmitt Smith. But he was quick enough to rocket through the slimmest of openings. He wasn’t bruising like a Jim Brown or a Terrell Davis. But he was strong enough to run over tacklers. Couple that with a commanding sense of vision and a nose for the end zone and you have one of the greatest running backs in Rockland scholastic football history.
Cann, a 1986 Clarkstown South graduate, was like a runaway locomotive when paydirt was in sight. He holds Rockland career scoring records of 52 touchdowns and 321 points, set from 1983 to 1985. Cann rushed for 2,802 yards, earned All-County honors all three seasons, and capped his senior year by being named New York State co-player of the year by the New York State Sports Writers Association, as well as first-team All-State fullback.
Jim Cann’s finest hour – to be precise, his finest 18 minutes 49 seconds – came during South’s 54-6 victory over arch rival Clarkstown North the last regular-season game of his junior year. Rarely on a Rockland gridiron has one player so dominated a game: seven touchdowns, including five in one quarter, tying state marks in both categories. South coach Mo Scro took Cann out of the game to spare North further embarrassment. “All good backs have great quickness, but with his quickness he had vision,” Scro once said of his star protege. “He just knew in his mind where the holes were. He was the greatest back I coached in high school.”
Believe it or not, football wasn’t even Cann’s favorite sport; baseball was. He made All-County in that sport in both his junior and senior years, as an outfielder and pitcher. In a poll conducted in 1988 by The Journal-News, Cann was chosen the best male athlete in the school’s then 16-year history.
Cann was heavily recruited by NCAA Division I colleges in the East and South, and chose Rutgers. Injuries consigned him to a spot on the bench his first two years, but he rebounded to start 22 straight games at tailback his junior and senior years. He earned All-East accolades his senior year after leading Rutgers in scoring, yards rushing and receptions. He wound up 10th on the school’s career receptions list, developed into a reliable blocker and was a capable fill-in as primary kick returner.
Baseball also was very very good to him at Rutgers. Playing center field and batting leadoff, Cann batted .38L was the team Most Valuable Player, and merited All-East honors his senior year, 1990. He helped lead the Scarlet Knights to the NCAA Eastern Regional finals, which they lost to Georgia, that year’s College World Series champion.
These days, Cann resides in Franklin, Tenn., where he sells dialysis equipment for a health care company. The 31-year-old is engaged to be married.