clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Translating Billy Cannon

Today on translating CoachSpeak we have a special guest star, Billy Cannon.  This weekend is the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest plays in college football history, Billy Cannon's Halloween punt return against Ole Miss.  You may remember Chad Jones' touching tribute to the run during the Mississippi State game.  

In order to squeeze as much goodwill as possible, LSU started Les' weekly press conference with some remarks by Cannon, which we are helpfully translating.  

WHAT HE SAID: "When Herb Vincent and our sports information director asked me to come up here and speak for a short length of time, I told him I'd be that to because there are a lot of questions I'd like to ask you guys. They informed me, no, Billy, you don't ask the questions. They ask you the questions. The only question I really have is, ‘What question could y'all possibly ask about that run that hasn't already been asked? Is there anything that I ever left out or didn't mention over the years?'"

WHAT HE MEANT:  For the love of God, please ask me about the punt return.  It's the best thing that ever happened to me.  I never get sick of talking about how awesome I am.


WHAT HE SAID: "We had a get together the other night over in Hammond and we did a fundraiser for Johnny Robinson's Boys Home over in Monroe. Johnny was able to come down and be there with us, and the bad part was that he still looks better than all of us and he's had some terrible health problems lately. We raised him about $10,000. It was great because we let all the old timers that played with us get up and talk. We gave them all a microphone. Someone who just happened to be in town was a guy who played against us for Ole Miss that night and later was the head coach at the University of Mississippi, Billy Brewer. We let Billy talk, and I thought we were going to have to assassinate him to get the microphone from him. He shed some insight from his side of the field that were funny and good natured."

WHAT HE MEANT: Pay no attention to that counterfeiting thing.  I'm a good guy who loves kids and sick people.  And I still hate Ole Miss.  Why?  Because they suck. I'm ready to suit up when we play those bastards and I'll hit that Snead kid so hard that he'll wish I wish still doing the charity circuit.


WHAT HE SAID: "Dave McCarty is going to have another show, in Lake Charles, before next season. We've done it twice for Johnny in Hammond at Shorty Rogers' motel. The first time, we had to talk Shorty into doing it. We raised about $7500 for him. We did it again, and this time we raised almost $10,000. So if any of y'all are around Lake Charles next year, I hope you can come and join us. How much did we charge? $100, and you can get everything you can carry. You'll probably hear some of the stories that you've always wanted to hear but that were unprintable at the time. I'd love to have you with us."

WHAT HE MEANT: Like have I ever mentioned the time me and Jimmy Taylor went out and murdered a vagrant?  Jimmy said it was wrong and we'd get caught, but I told him to shut his mouth or I'd rip his tongue out.  We ain't gonna get caught.  We were gods then.  And no one ever found the body.  Why do you think I thought I could get away with keeping money in a cooler?*

*ED NOTE: I am totally kidding, guys.  Please, do not send me hate mail.  And don't send your daddy to my house to whoop my ass for making fun of Billy Cannon.  Yes, he is awesome, but this joke is low hanging fruit.  I can't resist, and I mean no disrespect to Dr. Cannon, who I'm sure really could rip my tongue out if he wanted to.  And I'd rather he didn't.  For the record, I think 'Billy Cannon was a great player and is a great ambassador for the school. 

WHAT HE SAID: "The Ole Miss run 50 years ago... when we had all the guys there the other night, I asked them, '50 years ago, how many of y'all thought we'd do anything that would last 50 years?' Not one hand, not one word, not one peep out of any of them. We're as surprised as everyone else is. I think every player is proud of their part in that run and in that preparation to play that game. Really, I don't have anything new to add to it. The film is there. It speaks for itself, although the film may be turning a little yellow. I thought about sending it to Ted Turner, and I saw what he did to Jane Fonda, so I said, ‘No, we better keep our film.'"

WHAT HE MEANT: I am a total badass.  Still.  Don't forget it.  That film is sacred and you shouldn't even look at it directly or you will be turned to stone.


On training methods during his high school years...
WHAT HE SAID: "Well, what you've forgotten is that we started the weightlifting program. We started it at Istrouma High School with Alvin Roy. He had been wanting to put it in at a high school on the team level for years and years. Baton Rouge High beat us handily, with Warren Rabb, Gus Kinchen, Don Norwood, and other future teammates. They were an excellent team. They beat us handily when I was a junior. We came back after Christmas and the big freight truck pulled up. Back then, they didn't have the hydraulic lift gates in the back. We broke the boxes down, and we carried the weights out to the gym one at a time. I thought one of the greater stories of it was that we started lifting the day after Christmas break. We lifted until kickoff time the next year. We did eight basic lifts. It was just for strength. Alvin was there every afternoon, and during the summer we went to his gym and worked out at the school. It was a terrific change. It's been enhanced and built and carried on, and we're very proud of that. There was dentist, Dr. Ted Edwards, who practiced in Donaldsonville, and he was the scorekeeper for a baseball team out of Alexandria. They came down to play us in baseball. They parked in front of the gym and walked through the gym. He went through there and he said we he opened the door, the sweat and the heat hit him. There was a guy doing a bench press, and Dr. Edwards said there was more weight on one side of the bar than they had in the whole school at Alexandria. He said they were hollering, cheering each other on, and no wonder we won all our games. I think that was part of it. Every year, we'd have two or three kids lost to knee or shoulder injuries, and my senior year we lost nobody the entire year. We won every game, and we won the state championship.

WHAT HE MEANT: I was tougher than you even when I was 16.  I could've lifted the entire school structure.  Today's kids are sissies and I could crush them with a mere thought.


On if athletes from the 1950s could compete in today's game...
WHAT HE SAID: "Oh yes. Of course, one of the lawyers in town told me last week that not having any confidence was never part of my personality. I think I could play day before yesterday. If Max Fugler couldn't play today, then there's nobody out there that could play. He was the finest linebacker I ever played with or against, and I've played against some great ones. You could fool everybody in the press box, everybody on the bench, all the coaches, the rest of the players, but you didn't fool Max. Max always came up with the football, and always made the tackles. He was just a phenomenal athlete in his time, and if it wasn't for a bad knee, he'd probably still be playing."

WHAT HE MEANT: You wanna go?  Right now?  I'll eat your soul.  I could beat anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Hell, re-animate Attila the Hun and I'll bear wrestle him to the ground right now.  


On the quality of the 1959 LSU-Ole Miss game...
WHAT HE SAID: "It was a great ball game. If you ever get a couple of hours to watch the old film, it's really fun to watch. The runaways and where you get blown out, you forget. Where every play can determine the outcome of the game, those are the ones you remember. You remember them vividly because if you didn't give it everything you had against a Johnny Vaught team, you were going to get embarrassed, whether it was personally or as a group. We had made another goal line stand right before the half. If we hadn't have held them there, at the end of the game when they were at our one-yard line, they could have kicked a field goal and won 9-7. It was a great game."

WHAT HE MEANT: It had me.  It was awesome.  What's lost in the discussion of my punt return is the play I made on the goal line. That was pretty great, too. 


On who made the goal line stop at the end of the game...
WHAT HE SAID:  "Warren Rabb made the initial contact. I did a Bosworth. I jumped on the top and got my name called out. Warren was a good defensive back and a great quarterback until he broke his hand. He was a great competitor, a great leader and an excellent person."   



On the differences between the 1958 and 1959 teams...
WHAT HE SAID: "I thought it was our play selection. I thought we did things in 1958 because we were trying to be good and we were trying to score points. For instance, we were playing Duke and Duke was a good football team. I was sitting on the wing and they put in a post pattern to me. I ran the post and we scored on a long pass. We never saw that play again for the 18 months I was in school. I didn't see that pattern again until I got to Houston. We did a lot of things. We had a toss play where the remaining back would do a toss to the weak side, and it was only called one time. We were playing Tulane in 1958, and we were up 55-0 in the final minute. I had to go back in to prevent us from burning someone's redshirt. Coach Paul Dietzel said, "Go in there and run the ball up the middle, run out the clock and get this over with.' So like a good soldier, I went in there and said, ‘Call that toss to me. Coach Dietzel said it. Run it to the left right now.' Like a good quarterback, he called the play. I took the ball 35 or 40 yards for a touchdown. Tulane's coach was out at midfield cursing Dietzel, who kept saying ‘I didn't do it.' There's a guy in New Orleans who follows Dietzel around every time he's in New Orleans and says, ‘I had binoculars out there and I saw you tell Cannon to do that!' That's a couple of examples of what we didn't do in 1959. Our defense was so good. There were a lot of zeroes and not a lot of points scored that year. They knew if we played our game we'd get enough points to win the game. Most of the time, it worked."

WHAT HE MEANT: I could've called the plays, too.  That's how awesome I am.


On if he actually scored a disputed touchdown in the 1959 loss to Tennessee...
WHAT HE SAID: "I swear to God, I'll go to my grave believing I was across the goal line, looking down, and then got pushed back. And then the referee doing that, it made me sick. But we didn't lose that game on the goal line."

WHAT HE MEANT: I swear to God, I'll go to my grave believing I was across the goal line, looking down, and then got pushed back. And then the referee doing that, it made me sick.  He lost us the game.