Sometimes looking back at that era, it's hard to understand how Cannon was able to get away with some of the crap he did, but reading this article, I think it makes a lot more sense to me now.
Sure he would go off and do crazy shite all the time, but when it came down to it and he had to face the media or the average nobody fan in a bar room, he was not a surly individual at all, but rather was very charming.
He was genuinely thankful to be where he was, and media attention back then was still a pleasant novelty for players, unlike today where the media is in your face 24/7 with stupid questions all the time.
The dark side, of course, was that he was still essentially putting up a false media image of himself as a reformed husband and father of 2 daughters, and sort of seemed a little delusional about it all, which is how you get JJ-esque statements like this: "But I guess all kids make mistakes. In one way, I guess it was good for me. I learned a lesson I'll never forget." Guess not!
Standing 6 feet 1 inch in height and weighing a rock-hard 204 pounds, Billy can run 100 yards in 9.5 seconds, a feat which he accomplished twice last spring in his spare time away from football practice. He is also as strong as a young bull.
A good-looking, likable boy with crew-cut brown hair and friendly hazel eyes, Billy grew up just outside Tiger Stadium's north gate and used to sell peanuts and cold drinks in the big concrete stands when he was a kid.
"He's a tremendously intelligent boy—in some ways, he is really brilliant—and he has grown up. He's mature, and he knows what he wants out of life. He's a leader—this team is unusual in that respect; Fugler and Rabb and Robinson are leaders, too, and I think that explains our success as much as anything else. Billy Cannon is a great individual football player," says Dietzel, "but even more important, he's a great team man."
Cannon is certainly intelligent, and this goes far beyond his B average in a predental course. With a deceptive Deep South drawl, he is smart enough to talk about his blockers instead of about himself and to give all the credit for LSU's startling success to his teammates, his coaches and even to the howling mob of fans. And also, of course, to his wife and family, without whose help he would have had quite a bit more trouble living down a teen-age indiscretion involving a stolen bottle of whisky and the long arm of the Louisiana law. It is an incident which has been overpublicized both locally and nationally and really wouldn't have been so bad except that Billy Cannon was Billy Cannon—and he got caught. Billy had to check in with the probation officer for a month or so, and then everything was all right.
"I've always been sorry it happened," says Cannon. "But I guess all kids make mistakes. In one way, I guess it was good for me. I learned a lesson I'll never forget."
Typical of Billy, this too is an understatement. He has been a model student and citizen ever since. Married to his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Dupuy, in the summer of 1956, Billy is now the father of two little girls—Terri Lynn, who was born just before the '57 season, and Gina Leigh, who was born just before this one. The Cannons live in a house a few blocks from Istrouma High. The house is in Billy's name but actually, he says, "It belongs to my daddy and the mortgage company. Mostly the mortgage company."
The enthusiasm even overflowed onto the practice field; Dietzel had to halt one workout while a cheering horde of students, accompanied by the band, paraded across the field and stopped to give a few cheers.
Baton Rouge has always been crazy about football, and last year, even with a team which lost half its games, LSU set a Southeastern Conference attendance record. This-season that record has been smashed to bits.
LSU has been playing its games at night for more than 20 years, and in Baton Rouge they do not consider this strange at all. In fact, it is almost a necessity. An industrial town, Baton Rouge operates on a three-shifts-a-day schedule, and night football enables workers from two shifts to see the games. "I didn't care much for it at first," says Dietzel. "Now I think it's great."
"For a while, it seemed a bit peculiar to me, too," says LSU's dynamic young athletic director, Jim Corbett. "Now I wouldn't have it any other way."
Also, it's interesting to note how much closer the LSU football program was to the common blue collar worker back then. LSU's whole game schedule was fit around shift workers at plants, and it was a big deal for Billy's dad to get a job as a janitor. It was still essentially a military school back then, and people still admired the place for producing officers for WW1 & WW2. Few people went to college, and yet the college still represented the common people nonetheless--this was Huey's school after all.
Now we get nonstop talk about how poor people are trash and shouldn't complain about prices or game times or anything else, and how LSU Athletics is just a business run by successful people who don't need you at all. Now people talk about athletes like they talk about breeding horses. Just get the good ones, no matter what, cover up whatever they do while they're at LSU, keep them out of trouble, and then just forget about them when they're gone.
We're living in the world of Roman bread and circuses now, where everything is just a spectacle based on entertainment having nothing to do with its original purpose. Life goes on I guess, but man do I ever wish there were a minor league pro football system in this country--one that would take over half of the pro prospects straight from HS. It's the only way to save CFB from itself in my opinion.
This post was edited on 5/5 at 8:52 am