Louisiana’s Heisman history goes deeper than Cannon

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John David Crow
Former Texas A&M star John David Crow was Louisiana’s first Heisman Trophy winner.

The 85th Heisman Trophy will be handed out a month from today – Saturday night, Dec. 14 – in New York, and LSU’s Joe Burrow has emerged as the overwhelming favorite.

Tiger fans, or for that matter football fans in Louisiana, know that one other Heisman has passed through Baton Rouge – the late Billy Cannon, exactly 60 years ago, in 1959.

If last Saturday’s 46-41 victory over Alabama becomes Burrow’s clinching moment en route to the Heisman, Cannon’s defining moment came, of course, 60 Halloween nights ago, when he not only returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss, but assisted on the game-winning tackle on fourth-and-goal on the game’s final play, preserving the 7-3 LSU victory.

Unlike Burrow, whose ascent into the Heisman voter spotlight has come largely this fall, Cannon had finished third in the Heisman voting in 1958 as the Tigers won the national championship.

In an era of two-way players, Cannon finished the 1959 regular season with 759 yards from scrimmage. He also had an interception return for touchdown, served as the team’s punter and also returned punts and kickoffs – including that memorable return for a score against the Rebels.

Cannon, who attended Istrouma High School, is far from the only Louisiana tie to college football’s greatest individual honor. In fact, he’s not even the first Louisiana native to claim the award.

Two years before Cannon, John David Crow of Springhill won the Heisman. The Texas A&M running back was born in Marion, Louisiana, before moving to Springhill, a northwest Louisiana town near the Arkansas border.

In 1957, Crow only played in seven games, but he had six rushing touchdowns, five passing touchdowns and five interceptions.

Said his coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant: “If John David Crow doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy, they ought to stop giving it.”

Crow went on to an 11-year NFL career with the Cardinals and 49ers, earning All-Pro honors twice and reaching four Pro Bowls. and 49ers. Following his retirement after the 1968 season, Crow was a coach and administrator, serving as coach and athletic director at then-Northeast Louisiana University before moving to his alma mater, where he would serve as AD from 1988-93.

The Saints have drafted five Heisman winners in their history – George Rogers, Danny Wuerffel, Ricky Williams, Reggie Bush and Mark Ingram.

While Cannon and Crow are the only Louisianians to win the Heisman, others have been close:

*Holy Cross grad Hank Lauricella, playing at Tennessee, finished second in 1951.

*LSU’s Jerry Stovall, of West Monroe, finished second in 1962.

*Tigers quarterback Bert Jones, from Ruston, finished fourth in 1972 (as was noted on the CBS telecast of LSU-Alabama Saturday, the highest finish ever for an LSU quarterback).

*Grambling quarterback Doug Williams was fourth in the voting in 1977.

*A year later, LSU tailback Charles Alexander finished fifth in the voting.

*Former Carver standout Marshall Faulk, playing at San Diego State, finished second in 1992 and fourth in 1993.

*Newman’s Peyton Manning, playing at Tennessee, finished in the top 10 in the voting three times, including second in 1997. Six years later, his younger brother Eli, playing for Ole Miss, finished third in 2003.

*A pair of quarterbacks from Louisiana schools finished 10th in back-to-back years: Tulane’s Shaun King in 1998, and Louisiana Tech’s Tim Rattay in 1999.

*Former St. Augustine and LSU standout Tyrann Mathieu was fifth in 2011. Another former Purple Knight-turned-Tiger, Leonard Fournette, finished sixth in 2015.

*Haughton native Dak Prescott, playing at Mississippi State, was eighth in 2014.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder


Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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