The 1960 Championship Season, Part 2

“The Cannon Caper”


PREVIOUSLY – The 1960 Season, Part 1: Birthpains

The AFL decided to set its first draft for November 22, 1959, attempting to beat the NFL by one week.

However, the NFL had held a secret draft a week earlier.

In response, the AFL decided to divide the nation by territory for its first round, hoping to create greater fan attraction.

The league gave the Houston franchise the rights to draft players from the University of Texas, the University of Houston, Texas A&M, Rice, LSU, and Baylor.

In another attempt to attract fans, the AFL then decided that for the remainder of the draft, each team would take the top players at each offensive position.

With its first pick, Houston made a big-splash pick when it chose Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon from LSU.

Billy Cannon in his LSU playing days

Cannon had size and speed, and he seemed destined for stardom in the fledgling league, provided he could be steered from the NFL.

That task would prove to be a tall one for the Oilers.

Prior to his selection by Houston, Cannon had signed a contract with the Los Angeles Rams and their general manager (and soon-to-be NFL commissioner) Pete Rozelle.

Pete Rozelle

In fact, Cannon had received a $10,000 check from them, but Adams had promised to beat any NFL offer, and Cannon signed a second contract with the Oilers under the south goal post of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans when LSU played Ole Miss.

Later in the dressing room, Rozelle sought out Cannon and told him, “It’s going to be awfully nice having you in Los Angeles.”

Cannon slithered past the NFL to join the Oilers.

Cannon replied, “But I just signed with the Houston Oilers.”

Rozelle and the NFL sued, but the contract had been left undated, and the NFL Commissioner Bert Bell had not signed, it so the contract was found to be not legally binding.

Cannon returned the uncashed check to the Rams, and Adams and the AFL had won their first big clash with the NFL.

UP NEXT – The 1960 Season, Part 3: The First Head Coach and Roster

UP NEXT – The 1960 Season, Part 4: The First Season

UP NEXT – The 1960 Season, Part 5: The First Championship Game

Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.

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