How do you rank Billy Cannon’s draft position?

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1960 Fleer Billy CannonI had a thought-provoking inquiry recently by Tex Noel, the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.  Tex was working on a massive project in which he had compiled a list of all First Round Draft Choices, from every professional football league that held a draft (AFL, NFL, AAFC, WFL, USFL, XFL and CFL – the latter only when a player from the United States was drafted).  Tex was inquiring about Billy Cannon, the highly touted Houston Oilers draft choice from 1960.  His question was how Cannon should be categorized, as a first round draft choice, or as a territorial draft choice.

I have to admit that I didn’t know the correct answer off the top of my head, so I turned to one of my favorite AFL books, Houston Oilers; The Early Years by Kevin Carroll.  I found the answer on page six, and quoted the following passage for Tex…

On November 22, 1959, the AFL conducted its first player draft.  Working together, John Breen and Los Angeles General Manager Frank Leahy wrote the names of the eight best college players for each position and tossed them into a hat.  The owners then drew for their own order in the selection process.  Bud Adams drew the fourth position.  The Oilers’ first draft pick was the University of Cincinnati quarterback Jacky Lee.

Each team was allotted one territorial choice.  The Oilers selected Louisiana State University halfback Billy Cannon.

The other players selected in the AFL’s territorial draft were George Izo – New York Titans, Richie Lucas – Buffalo Bills, Monty Stickles – Los Angeles Chargers, Don Meredith – Dallas Texans, Gerhard Schwedes – Boston Patriots, Dale Hackbart – Minneapolis (ultimately Oakland Raiders) and Roger LeClerc – Denver Broncos.

As to how one would document Cannon’s draft position…  I think the best way would be to list the territorial picks at the top of the draft list, with a note describing this one-time occurrence, and that Cannon (and the other territorial choices) did not actually fall into a normally ranked order.


Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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6 Responses to How do you rank Billy Cannon’s draft position?

  1. As always, Todd, great article and exposition of an AFL quirk. The reference to “Dale Hackbart – Minneapolis (ultimately Oakland Raiders)” is a little misleading. Although the American Football League franchise that was to go to Minneapolis (before the NFL caused Max Winter to renege on his word) “ultimately” went to Oakland, the reference seems to imply that the draft choice also went there. But when Minneapolis reneged, its draft choices were taken by the remaining seven AFL ranchises. When Oakland joined the AFL, that franchise had to select players in a special draft, where each of the other teams made some players available. The fact that few good players were given up is the main reason why the Raiders were not competitive in the early years.

  2. Todd Tobias says:

    Thank you, Ange, for that point of clarification. Your explanation is perfect. And yes, the Raiders had a pretty tough go at it before Al Davis came along in ’63.

    • chris burford says:

      Todd. chris burford here. I was one of those first position players selected by the dallas Texans. When the Minnesota situation developed after I had signed with Dallas in December 1959, the Texans asked me if I wanted to go to Oakland or remain on the Dallas roster. As I had never lived in a different place other then in Oakland, I was born and went through high school there before I went across the bay to Stanford, I decided that I wanted the experience of going to texas thus I remainewd in dallas the 3 years prior to the franchise moving to kansas City. (just filling in the blanks) Regards, chris Texans/Chiefs 60-67

  3. Todd Tobias says:

    Interesting, Chris. Thanks for sharing. That is a tough decision. Life with the Raiders would have been interesting, but life with the Texans/Chiefs must have been great as well. And with Dallas, you knew that the franchise was not going to go bankrupt, which is something that wasn’t so certain at the time in Oakland. Seems to me that you made the right choice!

  4. […] most well-known double draft conflicts was the case of Heisman Trophy winner and LSU running back, Billy Cannon.  Cannon had been drafted by the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL and Houston Oilers of the AFL.  The […]

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