Billy Cannon Tells the Rest of His Story
When I was a child the first college football hero I remember having was LSU Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. Back in those days there was no ESPN. No 50 plus games a week on TV, and being at that age, I lived in New York and California, it’s hard to recollect how Billy became my first collegiate hero. I know I read every sports section and every national magazine and watched all the bowl games and news programs. This long overdue “authorized” biography was completed in yeomen like fashion by the author. And when you complete the entire detailed story, you know not only who Billy Cannon is but what he was, what he became on and off the field, the highlights that were extremely high and the lowlights that couldn’t get much lower and through it all Billy learned who he truly was when it counted the most.
And when I say counted most, that covers the gamut from a historical eighty-nine yard punt return that touched every single resident in the State of Louisiana and a young boy in California to admitting his guilt to a felony that not only put him in jail but showed him who his true friends really were!
Among many accolades I would like to bestow upon the author surprisingly interesting and educational is the crystal clear picture he paints of life in America during and after World War II especially in the south. The poverty and back breaking hazardous work, done proudly by Americans of that time, not only makes you take pride in the backbone and spirit of America but also makes you appreciate the type of work a high percentage of Americans engage in today. The pinpoint detail going all the way back to Cannon’s high school days over half-a-century ago is like being involved in “Friday-Night-Lights” before there was a “Friday-Night-Lights”. Memories will be rekindled for gentlemen of a certain age and for the younger folks they will probably be shocked to be made aware of how recently organized sports didn’t believe in weight training athletes were told it would hinder your athleticism and restrict your mobility. Billy who was before my high school years was one of the first groups to test out integrating weight training with sports such as football, basketball, track and baseball. With Billy running 9.5 second 100 yard dashes, winning shot putting titles, running 220 yard dashes, and anchoring relay along with scoring touchdowns and baskets, he was one of many who showed that old training prejudices should become a thing of the past.
In addition to his high school and Heisman winning college career there is some great reporting on his pro career which included AFL championships in Houston and very happily for me, some great detail on his career with the Oakland Raiders. This includes a no holds barred description of his interaction with the legendary Al Davis, whom Billy had nothing but the greatest respect for. The dedication Cannon showed in getting his dental license is admirable. The growth of his practice, his growth, and demise of his real estate investing and ultimately his felony arrest and conviction for his part in a counterfeiting operation are laid out by Billy and the author for the entire world to see. Billy completely “MAN’S-UP” regarding his guilt, certain points are laid bare or this biography that never had and never would have been made.
This is a great and long overdue book on a man who was once on a pedestal that he earnestly and honestly earned. He subsequently fell from the pedestal by his own accord. He admitted his wrong doing served his time and in my mind and soul has made himself one with society. This would be a great, great movie, but Billy would never allow it (by participating). I can only say welcome back Billy, you gave me many moments of excitement, and I too have made my mistakes as I’m sure that anyone who has honestly looked at themselves with unbiased eyes in their life’s mirror would admit the same.