LSU’s sensational halfback and future Heisman Trophy winner, who led the Tigers to their first national championship, walked off the field of his final game for LSU to see a beaming madman in a prim suit standing in the end zone, named Bud Adams. With that Billy Cannon was signed with the AFL’s Houston Oilers in front of a televised national audience, effectively firing a warning shot towards the choppy waters the NFL was about to sail into. Before Cannon could get his legs under him in the upstart AFL, Pete Rozelle of the NFL and the Los Angeles Rams, (who drafted Cannon #1 overall in the NFL’s common draft,) sued him for breach of contract. You see Cannon had also signed a deal with the NFL in secret, but Adams, (who had arranged this whole scheme,) knew that if the NFL admitted that they had signed Cannon before his college eligibility had ended, would be essentially embarrassing themselves, based on the invalidity of their contract.
Billy Cannon gave the upstart league immediate viability and credibility as an alternative to the stodgy NFL. Along with quarterback George Blanda, and wide receivers Bill Groman, and Charlie Hennigan, Cannon led the Houston Oilers to the first two AFL championships in 1960, scoring on an 88 yard pass, in the team’s 24-16 victory over the LA Chargers. He’d then repeat again in 1961, scoring the only touchdown in the rematch between the two. In that season he led the AFL in rushing with 948 yards (4.7 ypc), rushing for a team record 212 yards in one game, and overall with 2043 from scrimmage, but lost out to Blanda for the league MVP honors. In that season he set the league record for YFS in a game with 373 against the New York Titans, -a record that stood for almost 30 years, and had 5 TDs in that same game. After the Oilers failed to win the championship game in 1963, Billy signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1964. It was there that Al Davis had the crazy idea of converting Cannon to a tight end. – And why not? With his soft hands, great speed, and size, Cannon was a perfect fit for the position and the downfield passing game that Davis employed. He played the next 5 seasons with the Raiders where he built an impressive resume at the position and won another title with the Raiders becoming one of the AFL’s greatest players at the position. Billy then played one final season with the Chiefs in 1970 and retired. Cannon is one of only a handful (20) players who played the entire 10 year lifetime of the AFL in the league.
Billy has had some missteps since his career ended, and got in deep with the wrong people. In order to catch up he half-cooked up a counterfeiting scheme, and was sent to jail in 1983. After being released for good behavior, he went back to work in the medical field as a dentist, but had a difficult time finding work. Cannon was reviled now by the people who used to admire him who now would rather celebrate at seeing him fall further. It’d be in the most unlikeliest of places that Cannon, “The Legend” found his redemption. The prison system had need for a dentist, and Cannon came in and cleaned up the LSP dental department. In fact the Warden liked Billy’s work so much, that he promoted him to run the whole medical wing. It was in this perhaps, that Billy saw a glimmer of happiness in his work, and slowly over the next few years, took baby steps into the world again and began to make appearances at LSU functions. With time all wounds heal, and Billy was again praised for those svelte moves that earned him a place in school history for a play simply known as “The Punt Return”. Cannon still works at the prison today and is referred to by the inmates simply as “Legend”. He also enjoys raising and breeding horses. Billy Cannon is the only player to have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame twice. He earned the recognition in 1983 but it was taken away due to his conviction, and then again was inducted in 2008. His number has also been retired by LSU.
G 133 Rush 602 Yds 2455 Avg 4.1 Td 17 Lg 64
Rec 236 Yds 3656 Avg 15.5 Td 47 Lg 88
Kr 67 Yds 1704 Avg 25.4 Td 1 Lg 88
Pr 14 Yds 178 Avg 12.7 Td 0 Lg 51
The punt return: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIHdlAg4Uic