In Focus: Vivid Memory
After 50 Years, Billy Cannon’s Run Remains a Signature Moment
Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run. Just the mention of those four words is enough to bring a sense of pride and joy to any LSU football fan.
Tonight’s game against Tulane marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary game on October 31, 1959 in which LSU running back Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown.
The return turned out to be the only touchdown of the game as the top-ranked Tigers defeated the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels 7-3.
Cannon, now 72, admits that while he may be getting older, his memory of the run that Halloween night is still fresh in his mind.
“My mind is getting fuzzy but the run isn’t,” Cannon said. “The games that you win or lose big drift away. But the ones where the outcome of the game depends on every play, those are the games that you remember vividly.”
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Both the Tigers and the Rebels were undefeated heading into the game, which only added to the hype surrounding the already heated rivalry.
“The week of the game it was just crazy,” Cannon recalled. “Everyone just wanted to talk football.”
The game also marked the first time that the stadium sold out since new bleachers were installed in the south end zone. Over 67,500 people crammed into Tiger Stadium to watch the much anticipated matchup.
“To be playing before that many people with them sitting in the aisles and everywhere else, it was quite a stir,” said Cannon.
LSU trailed 3-0 through three hard-fought quarters. As Cannon stood at his own 11-yard line with just under 10 minutes remaining, he knew that in order for the Tigers to have a chance to win the game he was going to have to make something happen.
“It doesn’t take a genius to look at the scoreboard and figure out you are down and that you are running out of time,” Cannon said. “Before the punt I said to myself that if I have a chance I’m going to take this one back up the field because if we are going to do something we are going to have to do it pretty quick.”
And Cannon did just that.
Ole Miss’ Jake Gibbs tried to punt the ball out of bounds, but instead the ball took a bounce at the 11-yard line right into Cannon’s hands.
“I got the perfect bounce,” Cannon said. “If I had caught it on the fly I don’t think it would have worked out the same. I think the bounce made them relax a little bit and they were just surprised when the ball bounced straight to me. I was just as surprised as they were.”
After fielding the ball, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Cannon fought his way through seven would-be tacklers before finally breaking free around the 50-yard line. He then galloped his way into the end zone and into LSU history as the Tiger Stadium crowd erupted.
“There was a guy in the stands that was in the box seats that jumped out onto the field,” Cannon said. “He jumped on my back and he was beating me to death. One of my teammates, Donnie Daye, came over and pulled him off of me. He was so happy and going crazy. He was just going crazy and the whole stands were going crazy.”
Every year during the week of the LSU-Ole Miss game the black-and-white replay is shown numerous times on TV. These replays provide not only nostalgia for the fans of LSU football, but also for Cannon and his teammates.
“Over the years it has become a contest of who can point out what,” Cannon joked. “We have a lot of fun with it.”
“When I’m with Lynn LeBlanc, Lynn always says ‘Watch this block! Watch this block right here!’ because it was him making the block that took three guys down,” Cannon said, laughing. “But I tell him ‘Lynn I was by that guy before you even blocked anybody!’”
“Red (Brodnax) makes a block late in the play and Lynn accuses him of clipping and putting the whole team in jeopardy with the clip, but of course Red denies it,” Cannon added.
Fifty years have now passed since that Halloween night and Cannon’s punt return is still a prominent part of LSU history. But Cannon said he doesn’t want it to be remembered as an individual effort because it was a team effort.
“Not one of us on that entire team would have ever told you we were going to do something that would be so remembered 50 years later. We were there for the day, the moment, the game, and that period of time. That is all we cared about.”