Texas A M LSU Football

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, acknowledges the crowd as he is pulled from his last game in Tiger Stadium against Texas A&M in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

Dot Cannon hurried to the mirror. She applied lipstick quickly, carefully. She wanted to look at least halfway decent when she first met the player who reminded her so much of her late husband.

It was 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, and her daughter said she needed to drive to campus within an hour if she wanted to meet Joe Burrow.

Dot felt like she knew the star LSU quarterback already. It was in how he'd carry himself under the weight of 100,000 screaming people on a raucous Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. How he'd perform. How he'd answer questions from the press with that side-smile which said: Yeah, y'all didn't believe me.

It wasn't cockiness; it was confidence.

It was Billy Cannon.

So Dot wanted to see Burrow, needed to see the person everyone says will be the second LSU Tiger to win the Heisman Trophy — the first since her husband won in 1959 with legendary speed and a magical Halloween run.

She parked at the stadium. Met her daughter, Bunnie. Walked into a first-floor lounge inside LSU's football operations building.

And when Burrow stepped in, Dot smiled.

It was a brief meeting of maybe 15 minutes, a merging of the past and the future, a moment that Burrow's father, Jimmy, said was "a big deal for their family and ours."

Burrow asked about the Heisman, about Billy Cannon.

"I just told him, 'Your entire world is about to change,’ ” Bunnie said. "I said, 'You will forever be known as Joe Burrow: Heisman Trophy winner. You'll still be telling the same stories that you'll be telling today. It's a blessing, but I think you're handling it so well.’ ”

That's what her father would have told him, Bunnie thinks.

Billy Cannon never met Joe Burrow, and it's doubtful he ever knew his name.

News broke of Burrow's transfer from Ohio State to LSU on May 18, 2018. Two days later, Cannon died in his sleep at his St. Francisville farm.

He never lived to see LSU's next Heisman winner. But he always hoped for that day to come, and he believed that it would.

Every year, Bunnie said, her father would say: We're going to get one this year. We're going to get one this year.

"I think he always wanted to share that with somebody," said Bunnie, now an executive director with the Tiger Athletic Foundation. "Every time somebody would say, 'You're the sole Heisman winner from LSU,' he would say, 'Yet.' So now Yet has a name."


Can't see video below? Click here.


Is Joe Burrow's name written in bronze already?

Will it be called inside the PlayStation Theater in New York at approximately 7:50 p.m. Saturday?

Burrow is no longer the massive 200-to-1 underdog to win the Heisman that he was in the preseason. Once the 6-foot-4, 216-pound senior led the No. 1 Tigers (13-0) to a 37-10 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, some sports betting sites took down odds on Burrow completely.

Burrow is on his way to breaking every single passing record in LSU history, and he has already set single-season SEC records in yards passing (4,715) and touchdowns (48).

If his completion percentage (77.9) stands up the rest of the season, it will break an NCAA record once set by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (76.7%) in 2008.

"What hasn't he done for the trophy?" backup quarterback Myles Brennan said. "What has anybody done that he hasn't done? Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

The question for most is no longer: Will Joe Burrow win the Heisman?

The question is mostly: How much will Joe Burrow win the Heisman by?

The Associated Press already named Burrow its College Football Player of the Year in a landslide, receiving 50 of 53 possible first-place votes.

O.J. Simpson has long held the record with 855 first-place Heisman votes when he won the award at Southern California in 1968, and Ohio State's Troy Smith set the record with 91.63% of possible voting points in 2006.

Burrow's trophy case has filled rapidly this week. LSU's record-breaker won the Davey O'Brien and the Maxwell Award — and notions that players don't normally win both the Heisman and the Maxwell were recently quelled by Baker Mayfield (2017) and Lamar Jackson (2016).

Zacciah Saltzman, a teammate of Burrow's at Athens High in Ohio, watched his childhood friend accept the Johnny Unitas Golden Award in Baltimore on Wednesday night.

"I basically told him, 'I would be way more surprised if you didn't get the Heisman,’ ” Saltzman said.

So would the Louisiana native who called Burrow "one of the most important recruits in LSU history."

"In my opinion, he's the best player in the country," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "In my opinion, he should win it. In my opinion, he's going to win it."

And why wouldn't Orgeron feel this way?

The fourth-year coach has hinted his true feelings since LSU's dream season began.

Orgeron called Burrow a "baller" after the quarterback's third-and-17 touchdown pass to beat Texas, and when LSU led Florida 35-28 late in the fourth quarter, Orgeron turned to Burrow on the sideline and said: "This is what great quarterbacks are made of. We're going out there to score."

Burrow hit Ja'Marr Chase in stride for a backbreaking 54-yard touchdown that sealed the victory.

That's when Bunnie Cannon knew LSU's next Heisman winner had arrived.

Once the Florida game was over, she called Tim Henning, associate director of the Heisman Trophy Trust, and said: "I'm coming to the Heisman. I need one ticket."

Trophy winners and their families have lifetime invitations to every year's ceremony, so this was no problem for Henning. The Cannons just hadn't attended since 2009.

"He goes, 'You really think you're going to get one this year?’ ” Bunnie said. "I said, 'I know I'm going to get one this year.' So yeah, I made my flight reservations. My flight was like $160."

That was sooner than even the Burrows.

Jimmy said confidence didn't start brewing until his son led LSU to its first victory over Alabama since 2011, when he threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns "in front of every national media outlet known to man."

Even then, that wasn't enough.

It wasn't until two weeks ago that the Burrows started visiting with LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette about possibilities of traveling to New York, and "there still is a mode that we shouldn't be talking about this, this early," Jimmy said.

It's still all too surreal for the father who retired from a 14-year career as defensive coordinator at Ohio University to watch his son play his final season in Baton Rouge.

Jimmy grew up in northeast Mississippi, and he'd always heard of the legend of Billy Cannon's punt return touchdown on Halloween night against Ole Miss.

He said he never thought he'd meet the Cannon family, or that his son would start a legacy similar to LSU's greatest football player.

"You could say we dreamed about this," Jimmy said. "Dreams don't really consist of all this happening. It's more like a series of dreams."

And Billy Cannon's dream could at last come true.

It was strangely lonely for Cannon at the top of college football fame in Louisiana, Bunnie said. There was a lot of weight to bear. He had to be "on" all the time, someone's hero every day.

He yearned to share his experiences and advice with someone who would evenly understand.

And if Cannon were there in New York on Saturday night, and if Burrow were to win, just what words would the last LSU Heisman winner share with the next?

"The first thing he would do is he'd hug him and tell him, 'Congratulations. Welcome to the club,’ ” Bunnie said. "Then he'd say, 'Are you prepared for the club?' Then he'd go on to tell him things like, 'Keep your family close. Make sure you know who your friends are. Be nice, be kind and be humble.’ ”


Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.