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Billy Cannon
AP Photo/Jacob Harris

Consistent In The Clutch

1959 Heisman winner Billy Cannon

Unlike the majority of his fellow recipients, Billy Cannon's Heisman Trophy win ranks no better than third on the list of reasons why America remembers him. First is the 89-yard punt return he made for the decisive score in the Tigers' 7-3 victory over archrival Ole Miss. The radio call of that play is second only to mama's voice in favorite Louisiana sounds. Second is the five-year prison term that Cannon received in 1983 for manufacturing and passing $6 million in counterfeit bills. Only then comes the Heisman that Cannon won in a runaway vote. Once Cannon gained his release from prison, he spent more time rebuffing the public that he thought had rebuffed him. In recent years, however, Cannon has accepted the adulation that LSU fans have for him and the punt return. When the College Football Hall of Fame brought him out of purgatory and finally elected him as a member in 2008, Cannon reveled in the honor and the attention. Cannon's Heisman Trophy now sits under glass in a Baton Rouge sports bar. That gesture reveals something about Cannon and a universal truth about the Heisman: Its impact on the fans of the player who won it is significant, too. They view it as a quasi-religious icon. And they may be right.
-- Ivan Maisel


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