HOUSTON — New England Patriots offensive tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon aren’t just teammates, they’re also good friends. They use words like “awesome” and “great” to describe their relationship.
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when both linemen were Patriots rookies in 2011, they pretty much hated one another.
“We were both up to be drafted the same year, and I think there was a little bit of animosity between us,” Solder told reporters Tuesday at the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI hotel. “And when we ended up on the same team, it quickly became heavy animosity throughout the season.”
Cannon agreed, saying, “Our start was a little rocky at first when we were rookies coming in and not really knowing each other.”
Though their birthdays are less than a month apart, Cannon said he and Solder had something of a little brother-big brother dynamic after both arrived in Foxboro. That could have been partially tied to draft status: Solder was drafted 17th overall and started 13 games as a rookie, and Cannon did not come off the board until the fifth round.
?That initial situation might have been a little bit of maturity,” Cannon told reporters. “But there are a lot of funny stories about me and Nate. It is kind of like having the little brother trying to get the attention of the big brother. We have grown together a lot.”
According to both parties, their beef was short-lived.
“Over the year, that next offseason, we were the two that were hanging out with each other every day,” Solder told reporters. “So we?ve become very close friends. I think we both appreciate and respect each other?s abilities and talents. Our families know each other, they spend time together, so it?s really been a blessing.?
The two also have bonded over matters far more important than football.
Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before the 2011 draft and missed the first half of his rookie season as he recovered from chemotherapy treatments. So when Solder in 2015 discovered his young son, Hudson, had kidney cancer, he and his wife, Lexi, turned to his teammate for guidance.
“Marcus was one of the first people and one of the most meaningful people that came and talked to us and he said, ?You know, I understand the nightmare you?re going through, but just know that the nightmare does end,? ” Solder told reporters. “And he?s seen both sides of that.
“That was a huge impact on our lives, and we had a huge connection on the field where he says something, ?Nate, play with all your heart with Christ with you? — whatever it is, it really, really means a lot to me. I?m so thankful to have him in my life.?
Solder and Cannon bookend a Patriots offensive line that is far more effective and stable than its 2015 counterpart. Solder started 15 regular-season games after recovering from a torn biceps that cost him almost all of last season, and Cannon had by far the best season of his career, earning second-team All-Pro honors and a five-year contract extension.
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