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Wichitan Dr. Kenneth Aboussie remembers roommate Billy Cannon

Billy Cannon.....shown in Memphis yearbook when he roomed with Dr. Kenneth Aboussie of Wichita Falls, Texas.
Billy Cannon.....shown in Memphis yearbook when he roomed with Dr. Kenneth Aboussie of Wichita Falls, Texas.
Bonnie Lane

Dr. Kenneth Aboussie, prominent dentist in Wichita Falls, Tex., remembered his days as a roommate of Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Memphis today, Saturday, March 22. Cannon, who is a living legend in the state of Louisiana for running back a punt to defeat Mississippi in 1959, is now a dentist in Baton Rouge, La. Cannon led LSU to its first national championship in 1958.

Aboussie, who was an All-State wingback and halfback for Wichita Falls High School in 1962, later attended dental school in Memphis at the same time Cannon did. In fact, Aboussie shared a large house with Dr. Bill Neal, Cannon and former Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Gary Cuozzo across the street from where Elvis Presley lived with Priscilla at Graceland in the 1970s.

"Billy was a great guy. He already had a lot of money then because he was playing professional football for the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers. The rest of us dental students were living on loans and didn't have lots of money. He was really nice to the rest of us. He'd fly his plane down to Louisiana, pick up a bunch of shrimp and have it flown back to all the students and professors at our school every year," Aboussie said.

Aboussie recalled the amazing story of how Cannon ended up being recruited by LSU. Aboussie, who played for Oklahoma University, said Cannon originally signed a letter of intent to play for Mississippi. But when he ran afoul of the law in Louisiana as a teen-ager, a judge sentenced him to remain in the state of Louisiana for four years.

The judge's order prevented Cannon from playing for Ole' Miss so he had to sign with LSU instead. The judge was an alumnus of LSU and probably was indirectly responsible for changing the course of LSU football history.

Mississippi was defeating arch-rival LSU 3-0 late in the game when Cannon fielded a punt deep in LSU territory on Halloween night and threaded his way through at least seven Rebel tacklers on his way to the most famous touchdown in LSU history. The historic punt return is relived every year in Louisiana by television stations who re-play it before the Mississippi game.

Aboussie recalled a humorous story about Cannon while they were housemates in Memphis attending dental school. Aboussie said, "Billy came home with a jukebox one day. It had about fifty buttons on it you could punch to play songs. But each one of the songs was the one about Billy Cannon running the punt back for a touchdown!"

Aboussie laughed. He said, "But that was just Billy. He was a prankster."

Aboussie's wife Donna also said she loved Billy Cannon when she met him in Memphis.

Aboussie also said Memphis was a favorite dental school for professional athletes to attend because it was on the quarter system.

"They could attend school during the offseason and get their dental degrees faster that way," the former Coyote great said.

Aboussie said one of his housemates was Bill Neal, who also came to Wichita Falls and served as a dentist.

He also recalled Chuck Latourette, a former punt and kickoff returner, for the St. Louis Cardinals football team.

"I used to sit on a bench, studying my textbooks and watch Chuck practice returning punts," Aboussie said.

Unfortunately, Latourette, who later practiced medicine in Houston, saw his career ended when he was shot to death under mysterious circumstances.

Aboussie was voted one of the greatest Coyote football players of the last century. He was also good enough to earn a scholarship at powerhouse Oklahoma by legendary coach Bud Wilkinson. After graduating from OU in 1966, he attended dental school in Memphis.

Aboussie is a civic leader as well as an active member of Grace Church in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Aboussie was instrumental in leading WFHS to four consecutive Texas state championship games during his career there.

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