For those who love stories of people who’ve risen, fallen, and then found redemption, the story of former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon is just the ticket. Cannon became a football legend when he led undefeated Louisiana State to the 1958 national championship, then in 1959 made an electrifying 89-yard punt return it lift the Tigers over Ole Miss in a 7-3 victory that is permanently etched in LSU and college football history. He went on to an 11-year career as an AFL running back, became a dentist, and fell into financial straights that turned him to counterfeiting. His conviction resulted in a 2-1/2-years prison sentencd. Now a man who knows his comeback story well has dug out the details of Cannon’s rollercoaster life. Charles deGravelles spent 25 years ministering to inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where Cannon became a staff dentist.
Here’s an excerpt from Billy Cannon:
“There was an element of Billy’s character that resisted authority, that bent rules to the breaking point and beyond. Throughout his life, Billy acknowledged that strain, even if he never fully understood it. ‘The mind seems to run in circles,’ he later mused, “and one of my circuits rotates in the wrong direction. Every now and again, that circuit just seems to roll back around to the front.’ Once, someone compared him to the actor, James Dean, famous for his role as a tough young rebel. Cannon laughed as he remembered the old hand-me-down automobile he had driven in high school. ‘Yeah, James Dean with a slow car.’
“For all this, Billy didn’t stand out to those around him as a bad kid but as a talented and sometimes unruly one who skirted the edge of propriety and the law just for the adventure of it. Those who knew him best were his strongest defenders.”