When LSU told gridiron great Billy Cannon during last August that they would build a statue in his honor, he was somewhat shocked. It was the day after his 80th birthday. He died this past Sunday at the age of 80.
He was humble beyond question. And he was a legend who deserved attention that continued the notoriety he received on the football field at his college during the years he played for LSU.
After college, he played professional football during 11 seasons with the Houston Oilers who were the Tennessee Titans from 1960-63, with the Oakland Raiders from 1964 to 1969 and in 1970 with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was All-Pro in 1961 and 1967 and made the Pro Bowl in 1969.
It has been almost 60 years since Cannon left the field at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans after his final college game in the 1960 Sugar Bowl. He died peacefully in his sleep at his farm in St. Francisville where he bred and trained thoroughbred horses after his athletic career at Istrouma High School and LSU and in professional football.
Cannon was a dentist specializing in orthodontics when he returned to Baton Rouge. He provided dental care for inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for some 22 years beginning in the 1990s. He later oversaw Angola’s entire medical system.
S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said in a statement published in The Baton Rouge Advocate “Later in life, Dr. Billy Cannon treated patients at Angola. I ran a liver clinic there. We would eat lunch together and talk about life and football. In all my interactions with Billy, he was as fine a man as could be.”
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva also was quoted in the Advocate saying, “There may be no other figure in LSU sports more beloved and revered. His loss will be felt across the world today. He will always be in our memories.”