Category Archives: Billy Cannon

AFL Legend Billy Cannon Passes Away

The first major rookie signing of the AFL, Billy Cannon, has passed away. Cannon was the 1958 Heisman Trophy winner at LSU, and was highly sought by both AFL and NFL teams. Cannon signed with both the Rams of the NFL and Houston Oilers of the AFL, leading to a legal affair the result of which found Cannon playing in the AFL. He went on to play all 10 seasons of the league, splitting time between the Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders. read more

The First AFL Draft

For decades there has been mystery surrounding the first AFL draft. How was it done? What was the order? Trades? And on and on…

Oakland Raiders’ team historian Jerry Knaack has recently tackled the historic event and posted his work on the Raiders website. Rather than try to summarize or make up Cliffs Notes to what may be the most convoluted draft in sports history, I will simply post the link for you all to enjoy! read more

1959 LSU Stars Join the AFL

1960 afl yearbook

The Louisiana State University football team was dominant in 1958 & 1959.  Paul Dietzel’s recruiting classes of 1955 & 1956 paid huge dividends, and led the Tigers to an NCAA championship in 1958, and a third place national ranking the following year.  LSU junior, Billy Cannon, took home the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top collegiate football star in ’59, and was joined in the Tiger backfield by three other athletes who all went on to play professional football – Johnny Robinson, J.W. Brodnax, and Warren Rabb. read more

Cannon: A Long, Long Run – A Book Review

While browsing new releases on Amazon a couple of months back, I was pleased to see that a new biography on AFL legend, Billy Cannon, had been written.  I placed my order, and when the book arrived, I set it on my stack to read.  I completed it just the other night, and sadly, have mixed feelings about it.

Billy Cannon is a fascinating figure.  An All-American and Heisman Trophy winner from LSU, the AFL’s first marquee draft choice, a two-time AFL champ, Super Bowl II participant, dentist and felon convicted of counterfeit.  There is enough juicy stuff there to keep a storyteller busy for quite some time, and I must say that author Charles deGravelles did a fine job of covering most of the material.  In fact, I found the book to be very well-written.  DeGravelles touts Cannon’s attributes, but also of pointing out his flaws.  He digs a bit into Cannon’s psyche, and tries to determine what led to his ingrained streak of rebellion that got Cannon into several spots of trouble throughout his life. read more

Billy Cannon – Part Two, Playing with a Target on his Back

Yesterday we shared Dave Steidel’s study on the process by which Billy Cannon joined the Houston Oilers.  Today Steidel takes a look at Cannon’s contributions on the field during his first few years of professional football.

billy cannon and bud adams

January 1, 1961

Thanking Cannon for forging a path to the AFL for the many college stars who signed on may have come from the owners and the commissioner in their own way, but when training camp opened in July of 1960, there was no gift of thanks from the players, only the target to place on his back that marked him as the man to be measured against.  As a media darling, the shifty, slashing 6’1″, 210-pounder was clocked in the hundred in 9.4 and was the scourge of LSU’s Southeastern Conference opponents for three years.  Cannon was described in terms of being ‘faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive’ and because of the high profile law suit, everyone was aware of what his pay check looked like.  It all became a source of envy for the new hopefuls in uniform who were out to impress their new coaches.  Now it seemed like every defensive player in the league was out to show the two time All-American how “real football” was played, including his Houston scrimmage mates.  More often than not during his first year he would hear comments from tacklers like “This is a different league, Cannon. You better grow up.” And when he fumbled in his first league game one opponent remarked “You’re playing with men now, All-American.” read more