Play still fires up Cannon
Fifty years later, he carries the memory
BATON ROUGE, La. - When Billy Cannon first pulled on a purple and gold LSU uniform, he never figured he’d do anything on a football field that would last 50 years.
By the time his college career was over, the running back had won a national title (1958), a Heisman Trophy (1959), and his No. 20 jersey had been retired, making him the first LSU player to receive such an honor.
As it turns out, No. 9 LSU has a home game on the 50th anniversary of the most famous of Cannon’s many highlights, a slashing, tackle-breaking, 89-yard punt return that lifted the Tigers to a 7-3 triumph over No. 3 Mississippi.
During tomorrow’s game against Tulane, LSU will commemorate the play, widely believed to have clinched Cannon’s Heisman that year. Now 72, Cannon will be honored on the field while the play is rerun on the massive video boards above the stands behind each end zone. Cannon promised with a grin that he and his old teammates would not attempt a reenactment.
“I’ve looked at my guys and I don’t think any of us could finish it, but we’ve enjoyed it very much over the years,’’ Cannon said. “Every player is proud of their part in that run and in their preparation to play in that game.’’
Footage of the Halloween night run, shows Cannon snagging a bouncing punt at the LSU 11, slipping a slew of tacklers, and finally breaking loose along the right sideline as the Tiger Stadium crowd went wild.
What many forget is that Cannon also had a hand in Mississippi’s only points.
“I was probably one of your better fumblers, too,’’ he said, referring to his turnover in LSU territory that led to the Rebels’ field goal.
Cannon doesn’t seem to mind reminiscing about his blunders, either, and said he would advise any football fan to spend a couple hours watching the entire game, which ended with LSU’s goal-line stand in the final minute to make Cannon’s touchdown stand up as the winning score.
Tomorrow night won’t be the first time Cannon has seen his run on the big screen in Death Valley, and Cannon said it’s always a thrill, especially when his grandchildren are there with him.
“To see the look on their faces that that really happened - they hear about it, but to see it and to be with . . . our LSU fanatic fans, and to see the look on their faces is fantastic,’’ Cannon said.
Cannon was quick to dismiss the idea that his runback stands as the greatest play in LSU history.
“Do you know how many great football players we’ve seen play in that stadium?’’ Cannon said. “I think it’s the time or the moment that makes a great play stand up. But it was a lot of fun doing it.’’