Former Heisman Trophy winner, LSU legend Billy Cannon dies

By The Sports Xchange  |  May 20, 2018 at 5:10 PM
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Former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon passed away Sunday morning at his home, LSU announced. He was 80.

Cannon, who was the only Heisman Trophy winner in school history, was a star running back for the Tigers during their 1958 national championship season. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy the following year.

Cannon was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and provided a signature moment with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss on Halloween in 1959. He then made the game-saving tackle on defense at the one-yard line to preserve the 7-3 win.

"There may be no other figure in LSU sports who was more beloved and revered," LSU athletics director Joe Alleva said in a statement. "His loss will be felt across the world today. The LSU family mourns with the Cannon family. He will always be a Tiger and will always be in our memories."

Cannon was the top overall pick of the 1960 Draft that was coveted by both the NFL and AFL. He elected to sign with the Houston Oilers, helping the club to the first AFL championship game -- in which he recorded 259 all-purpose yards en route to being named the game's MVP.

In 1961, Cannon led the AFL with 948 rushing yards and 2,043 all-purpose yards. Cannon spent four years with the Oilers, six with the Oakland Raiders and one final season with the Kansas City Chiefs during his career.

"I am sad to hear that our franchise has lost one of its first stars today, with the passing of Billy Cannon," Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said. "My father recognized that the AFL would need first-rate players to compete with the NFL, both on the field and in public perception, and Billy was one of those special players, who helped the Oilers and the AFL in that process.

"Choosing to sign with the Oilers, instead of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, Billy was a key player in our back-to-back AFL titles in 1960 and 1961. I want to offer our condolences to his family. Billy's legacy will be long remembered in our franchise's history."

Cannon was the first LSU player to have his jersey number (No. 20) retired.

"Billy Cannon was LSU football through and through. He was a legend. He will be missed and never forgotten," current Tigers football head coach Ed Orgeron said.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

"To say that Billy Cannon was legendary is an understatement," LSU President Dr. F. King Alexander said. "His talent catapulted LSU Athletics into the national limelight, but more than that, he had unwavering commitment to his alma mater. He will forever remain a part of the LSU legacy throughout the nation."

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