Any male who played high school or college football during the 1950s or 1960s knew who Billy Cannon was. Any male that lifted weights during the 1950s or ‘60s knew who Billy Cannon was. A remarkable high school and collegiate player, he defined greatness and did the same during his first two professional seasons before being limited by injury and with that fact duly noted, he was still an All Pro and one of the best at the positions he played. As a high school All American, when the designation had real meaning and few received it, he led Istrouma High School on the “working class side” of Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the State Championship while being the premiere sprinter and shotputter in Louisiana. Gayle Hatch, recognized as the best of the United States Olympic Weightlifting coaches through many decades, was first an All State and All American athlete at Baton Rouge Catholic High School before going on to collegiate basketball stardom and numerous records at Northwestern Louisiana State University. He noted to the HELMET HUT staff that of all of the Olympic and pro athletes he developed throughout the Southeastern Conference, he was “honored to have competed against Billy Cannon because there was no comparison to any other athlete.”

Cannon was the first weight trained combination of super strength and super speed, barely off of the high school and college national records in multiple sprints while winning the SEC shot put title and having former Olympic Weightlifting Team trainer Alvin Roy note that with minimal specialized training, “Billy would beat all of the existing lifting records.” At LSU he starred for three seasons, set multiple records rushing, receiving, and on the return teams with his 1959 Halloween Night game winning punt return against Ole Miss recognized by many as one of the top two or three greatest college football plays of all time. A two-time unanimous All American, Heisman Trophy winner, and inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame, he was in every sense of the terms, “the man,” “the guy,” the embodiment of college football during his day and considered as royalty by those who were touting the benefits of weight training. The 1958 LSU National Championship team truly caught the imagination of the nation and Cannon was the team’s main focal point.

Billy Cannon and our dear friend Dale Stram on Billy's 80s birthday

A first round, first overall draft choice of the NFL Rams and number one territorial selection by the American Football League Houston Oilers, he was immediately “all that,” helping to lead his team to the inaugural 1960 AFL Championship as its leading rusher and named as MVP in the championship game. He was an AFL All Star (All Pro) in ’61, setting single game records for rushing and all-purpose yardage and leading the AFL in those categories at the conclusion of the season. He repeated as the Championship Game MVP as the Oilers won a second title. Injured in the third game of the ’62 season, he was limited though still a potent scoring threat. Further injury kept him off the field for most of ’63 but his career was resurrected after requesting a trade and going to the Oakland Raiders. There he moved from fullback to tight end and again made the AFL All Star team and became one of the first of the long ball threat tight ends. He remained in Oakland from 1964 through ’69, helping the Raiders to the 1967 AFL Championship with his award winning tight end play. Cannon retired after spending the ’70 season with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Billy remained very close friends (truly family) with both Hank and Dale Stram.




A surprisingly accomplished student, Cannon had spent the off seasons completing his dentistry and orthodontrics degrees from the University of Tennessee and Loyola of Chicago respectively. He had a successful practice and later became the director of both dental and medical services for the Louisiana State Prison where he was revered for the time and care given to inmates while reorganizing the entire prison health care system to meet their needs. He remained a popular figure in his home state of Louisiana, was the recipient of many honors and inductee to numerous Halls of Fame. Billy Cannon will always be viewed as one of the pivotal figures of football in the south and throughout the nation due to his exceptional performances and efforts spent in the pursuit of success for his team. He captured the imagination of a nation at a time the nation's football viewership was expanding and held it as a true football hero.