Cannon, Aikman, Holtz lead 15 into Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Lou Holtz, Billy Cannon and Troy Aikman were among 15 former players and coaches elected Thursday to the College Football Hall of Fame.

"When I first heard I was going into the Hall of Fame, I went "Wow! Wow! How'd this happen?" Holtz said during a National Football Foundation news conference.

Holtz, a studio analyst for ESPN's college football coverage, coached six schools to 249 victories in a career that spanned more than 30 years. He won a national title with Notre Dame in 1988.

Holtz described himself as "a little guy with a lisp, in the lower half of his high school class … out of East Liverpool, Ohio."

"I could never thank the people of the Ohio Valley enough for instilling in me the morals and values," Holtz said of the honor. "I just hope my induction will serve as an example to persevere. I've been fired and ridiculed and downgraded. That's all part of life. You just continue to move on."

Cannon played tailback and defensive back for LSU from 1957 to 1959, winning the Heisman Trophy his senior year. This is the second time he's been elected to the Hall of Fame. In the early 1980s, he was voted in -- but the invitation was rescinded after he was arrested on federal counterfeiting charges.

Cannon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison in 1983. He served 2½. He has been working as a dentist at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola for the past 13 years.

Cannon told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday that he was "tickled and happy" to be voted into the Hall again.

Aikman started his college career at Oklahoma, then transferred to UCLA. After two stellar seasons (1987-88) with the Bruins, he was drafted first overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

The other 11 players chosen by the NFF's selection committee were Virginia offensive tackle Jim Dombrowski; Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald; Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall; Washington State running back Rueben Mayes; Arizona State guard Randall McDaniel; Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson; Wyoming tight end Jay Novacek; Texas Tech split end Dave Parks; Florida State nose guard Ron Simmons; Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas; and Army quarterback Arnold Tucker.

Fitzgerald was a two-time winner of the Bednarik Award as the national defensive player of the year, in 1995 and '96, and is entering his third season as coach at Northwestern.

"This will be the highest honor I can ever have awarded to me," Fitzgerald said at the news conference.

McPherson was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1987 to Notre Dame receiver Tim Brown.

"The game of football has given me more than I have given it," McPherson said.

John Cooper, who went 192-84-6 with Tulsa, Arizona State and Ohio State, was the other coach selected for induction.

The latest class will be inducted at the NFF banquet in New York in December, then enshrined in the summer of 2009 at the Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.