Was Istrouma’s 1955 Team Greatest Ever?
Was the 1955 Istrouma High football team the greatest in Louisiana history? As long as football is played in this state, that will be debated.
Louisiana has only had one Heisman Trophy winner — Billy Cannon — and he starred on the 1955 team, which went undefeated and won the State Championship.
2015 is the 60th anniversary of the 1955 team, but many team members are still alive, including Cannon and his quarterback, B.L. Fairchild, who went into coaching and himself coached Tara High to a State Championship in 1975.
Fairchild, who now resides in Watson, sat down to discuss the 1955 team Sunday at Sammy’s on Wax Road. “Perhaps the most important thing to realize about our team is that we were just a bunch of kids playing football and having fun,” he said. “At the time, I thought we had good coaches, but they didn’t do anything spectacular. Now, looking back, I realize they were great coaches and administrators.”
The head coach, the legendary Big Fuzzy Brown and his brother Little Fuzzy, who became principal, won a total of nine State Championships at Istrouma from the late 1930’s to the early 1960’s.
In a 1956 interview, Big Fuzz said, “Several factors are necessary to get satisfactory results in any activity, and it is no different in football. You must have kids with not only the physical capability but they must also have the proper mental attitude to play winning ball. You need a good coach-player-team relationship, cemented through firm but fair discipline. You must have the backing of the student body, the faculty and the fans. Above all, it takes a lot of hard work by everyone connected with the team. I think our football philosophy is pretty well described by five slogans we use and believe in at Istrouma:
• You’ve got to like it.
• You’ve got to have the desire.
• There is no substitute for work.
• A football team is no better than its blocking and tackling
• And you’ve got to throw to go.”
Coach Brown said, “Pride also plays an important role in sparking our boys to give their best efforts.” “We try to instill in our students pride in their accomplishments in the classroom and pride in their athletic participation.”
Fairchild said one important innovation of the 1955 Istrouma team was its weight program. “When I started at Istrouma, we were using isometrics, but Alvin Roy introduced a weight training program. Before then, weight training was considered inconsistent with athletic accomplishment. We helped change that, and the use of weight training really began at Istrouma and spread across the country.”
Istrouma had four All-State players on the 1955 team — Cannon, George Guidry, Luther Fortenberry, and Billy Buto.
Perhaps Guidry has been the most underrated, but the reality is, if there had never been a Billy Cannon, Guidry might have been the state’s MVP. During their senior season, Cannon ran for 1,689 yards and scored 229 points, while Guidry ran for 1,093 yards and scored 90 points, even though he was injured for several games.
Guidry was a star when Cannon was an awkward 10th grader.
In the 1953 season, when Guidry was a sophomore, he faced off against a Baton Rouge High senior named Jimmy Taylor, a future All American at LSU and NFL star.
That night, Taylor ran for 58 yards, while Guidry ran 17 times for 222 yards.
When Cannon went to the AFL and played with the Houston Oilers, one of his greatest teammates was Charlie Tolar, a powerhouse running back known as the “human bowling ball.” When asked who George Guidry reminded him of, Cannon without hesitation said Charlie Tolar, and he said Guidry was every bit as good.
Blessed with two All-State running backs in the backfield, a powerful line, and a winning philosophy, the 1955 Istrouma Indians were unstoppable.
The Capital City News/Central City News hopes to organize a banquet in honor of the 1955 team later this year and invite the public to participate. If you are interested, email email@example.com.