Speed and Power: what a Cannon always delivered
by Pit O'Maley
(Alameda, Ca. USA)
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, I became a lifetime devotee of this athlete.
Living on the west coast in Oakland by 1960, I was elated to see him play for the Oakland Raiders, even though Billy had slowed some since the Oilers had tampered with his special skills to fit in with their lackluster talent. The Raiders also moved him to tight end instead of half back. The fact that this extraordinary athlete lasted all 10 years underscores his honed personal training habits.
I sympathize with those attempting to address Cannon's influence on fellow athletes.(He may have drawn me to weight training).Similar running backs,(Bob Hayes,Earl Campbell), had their physical gifts destroyed drafted like Billy into a weak offensive unit.
Remember Bo Jackson? Why should you? Some switch-hitter. Not Cannon. He could do all that was called for. He blocked when others said he couldn't run. And passed. With the later free-agency rules, had he been signed for a contending team, he would have lasted 15 years easily.
What I mourn him for was not his personal failings,(which could have made him millions on Wall Street) but the fact that no biographer of the calibre of Mark Bowden has given this unique, highly accomplished athlete what he deserved. His football skills were self-made,not the dreams of an ad agency.
Billy Cannon is the standard of football excellence. LSU and the SEC is right: Gold does not tarnish.