Billy Cannon Biography

Billy Cannon was born August 2, 1937 in Philadelphia, Mississippi. At the height of World War II, Billy's father found work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so the family moved there. Cannon graduated from Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge.

Billy Cannon at 2008 Reunion of 1958 LSU Football Team

Billy Cannon (left) in 2008 at a 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1958 National Champion LSU football team. Thanks to Paul Dietzel II for these pictures.


After high school, Cannon enrolled in Louisiana State University (LSU) where he began his great football career. Billy Cannon played three seasons for LSU and led the team to their first College Football National Championship in 1958. The Tigers captured the football title after defeating Clemson 7-0 in the Sugar Bowl.

You can vote for the '58 Tigers as the best SEC team ever at Top All-Time SEC Football Team Survey.

After the 1959 football season, Billy Cannon was awarded the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious and coveted award in college football. To earn this honor, Cannon gained 598 yards rushing, returned eights kickoffs for 191 yards, and scored seven touchdowns.

For his accomplishments on the LSU football team, Cannon's jersey number, "20", was retired after the 1959 season. LSU had never before, and has never since, retired a player's number.

Soon after Cannon's senior season ended, he secretly signed a $50,000 contract with the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams. A few weeks later, Cannon signed another contract with the Houston Oilers of the American Football League for $100,000 a year.

This obviously caused a battle between the teams, and a court later ruled that the Houston contract was binding. This tug of war between the established NFL and the new AFL caused Cannon to be the most publicized football player of 1960.

Billy Cannon at 50th Anniversary of 1958 LSU Football Team

Billy Cannon (center) in 2008 at a 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1958 National Champion LSU football team. Thanks to Paul Dietzel II for these pictures.


Cannon spent four seasons with the Oilers and was named an "All-AFL" running back in 1961. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1964 where he became a tight end and was named to the "All-AFL" team again as tight end in 1967.

Billy remained with the Raiders until 1970, when he played one more season in the AFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is one of only twenty players in history that played in the AFL for the entire 10 years of the league's existence.

While Cannon played professional football, he went to dental school at the University of Tennessee where he received his D.D.S. in 1968. He studied orthodontia and obtained two additional degrees at Loyola in Chicago. After his retirement from professional football, he became an orthodontist.


THIS IS LSU FOOTBALL PART I: WELCOME TO THE DEATH VALLEY

In 1983, Billy was tried and convicted of participating in a counterfeiting operation and was sentenced to five years in prison. Although sports writer Frank Deford denies the rumors, many believe that the novel and movie Everybody's All American was based on Billy Cannon's life.


In 1986, Cannon ran into serious financial problems and sold his Heisman Trophy to restaurant owner Tom Moran. To this day, Cannon eats for no charge at T.J. Ribs in Baton Rouge, where his trophy is displayed.

Although he has had unfortunate circumstances plague him over the past 25 years, Cannon was once - and still is - football icon - especially to LSU and Southeastern Conference (SEC) fans.

Many long-time fans still recall listening to Billy Cannon's football heroics on the radio. Even though he no longer owns his trophy, Billy Cannon's legend lives on and his name is permanently etched in football history.



Offense Billy Cannon

Read more at Billy Cannon History. To read about other great SEC football players, read Best All-Time SEC Football Player. See also 2007 LSU Football.

Chapter four of the book to the right "Game of My Life" is dedicated to the Billy Cannon story.



Check out our current page about LSU Tigers Football and LSU Tigers Football History.

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Billy Cannon History 
Billy Cannon was the only Heisman winner that played for the LSU Tigers. Billy Cannon played for the LSU Tigers from 1957-1959. …

Billy Cannon Pro Football HOF 
Is Billy Cannon eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ?

How Contact Billy Cannon? 
How can I contact Billy Cannon? I knew him in Memphis when he was in dental school. I would love to say hello to him. I'm sure he will remember me, …

good Football player, failed human being Not rated yet
his heisman trophy should be taken away.....scumbag...much like OJ...he deserves the life he ended up with for his greed.

Billy Cannon Story Not rated yet
At age 11 my dad told me at LAX to go up to this group waiting for our jet and ask them what team they are with. I approached a man and asked him. He …

Oiler/Cannon fan from the AFL days Not rated yet
It was an awesome experience to see Billy Cannon play. I first saw him when he played for the Oilers. If he got a step on the other guy, he was gone. …

Speed and Power: what a Cannon always delivered Not rated yet
On a black-and-white TV, I switched channels to watch the Ole Miss/LSU game at the age of 11. After witnessing Billy Cannon's miraculous sideline run, …

past moments -- billy cannon  Not rated yet
in 1959 billy signed a baseball for me and i still have it I would to give it to him EDITOR'S NOTE: Anyone know how to reach Billy Cannon?

I was a patient of Dr. Cannon Not rated yet
I was a patient of dr.cannon. i loved him. i was in his care when he went to prison. i have never recovered from the trauma. my teeth/treatment was never …

Billy Cannon is my Hero Not rated yet
Billy Cannon is my hero, he is the greatest football player to come out louisiana. he is my hero, and always will be my hero. he gave us a lot of enjoyment. …

how can I contract Mr. Cannon? Not rated yet
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cannon. I hope to get an address so I could write to him and ask about getting a signed photo of him or a …

Billy Cannon: One of the best ever Not rated yet
I am a bit young to remember Billy Cannon, but my Dad always thought he was one of the best ever to play the game. He could do it all on the football field. …

Maybe one of the 5 greatest plays in College football history Not rated yet
My name is Sammy Graphia and on Halloween night of 1959, unlike the "300,000" or so people that claimed to be in the stands, I was at home listening to …

Maybe one of the 5 greatest plays in College football history Not rated yet
My name is Sammy Graphia and on Halloween night of 1959, unlike the "300,000" or so people that claimed to be in the stands, I was at home listening to …

Billy Cannon Off The Field Heroics Unsung Not rated yet
All of the personal sport accomplishments that Billy Cannon achieved are nothing compared to the wonderful things he did for so many college athletes. …

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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2014 SECSportsFan.com

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