Thursday, October 29, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
COUNTERFEITIN’ BILLY CANNON-
THE TOAST OF LSU
Even though it’s just a second rate game for the LSU Tigers this Saturday night against Tulane, the crowd noise in Tiger Stadium will be deafening, but not because the ninth ranked Tigers should make mincemeat out of my old Alma Mater, Tulane. The biggest burst of ear piercing volume will come when the number one LSU legend is introduced and waves to the crowd of over 92,000 fans.
It was 50 years ago to the night when Billy Cannon made football history with his 87 yard run to beat Ole Miss and keep the Tigers undefeated. His story is the rise and fall, than the rise again by LSU’s all time sports hero. And guess what? I played a minor role in what became Billy’s personal nightmare and fall from grace.
Even those who are not Tiger fans will admit it was one heck of a run. Cannon either sidestepped or pushed away tackler after tackler as he weaved his way towards the end zone. I wish I had a dollar for every time the magical run has been replayed on television. You can well imagine the crowd’s reaction this Saturday night as one more time the fans in the stadium and the millions on national television once again see Ole’ Billy tear through the Rebel opposition. (You can watch the run on the web at www.jimbrownla.com).
The feat by Billy beat Ole’ Miss 7 to 3, and made Cannon a legend for life. Paul Revere had his ride and Billy had his run. And ever since when Halloween falls on a Saturday night, the airwaves are filled with replay after replay of “the run.” Some folks in Louisiana would sooner lock up the kids and throw out the candy than to miss seeing Billy strut his stuff on All Hollow’s Eve.
It was on New Year’s Day 1960, between the goal posts of the Sugar Bowl, Cannon, before 83,000 fans, signed a contract with the Houston Oilers of the AFL. That contract offered him $100,000 over three years, a $10,000 gift for his wife, a slightly used Cadillac and a promised chain of Cannon gas stations selling Cannonball Regular and Super Cannonball.
He led the league in rushing in 1961 but hurt his back in 1962. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1964 and ended his career in 1970 as a tight end. During the off- seasons, though, Cannon had gone to dentistry school. With five children, Billy knew he had to prepare for the future. Because of his popularity, Cannon’s practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year.
OK, so how was yours truly involved? Continue reading “Jim Brown on Counterfeitin”