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WE WERE ALWAYS EXCITED ABOUT PLAYING OLE MISS. WHEN YOU PLAYED a Johnny Vaught team, you knew you had to bring your A game or you'd be embarrassed. The 1959 game had extra electricity. We used to take a bus from our dorm to the stadium, and as soon as we pulled up you could feel it in the crowd. This wasn't just a game, it was a happening.
It was the first game everyone wanted a ticket for. A lot of the Ole Miss people got tickets through LSU, so there were a lot of Ole Miss fans. It was a great mixture. Everybody expected and saw an outstanding football game.
The heritage at LSU is rich. Back then Louisiana was an agronomic state with chemical plants along the Mississippi. All the stores were open on Saturday and would close at 5 or 6 p.m. to watch LSU play night ball. The farmers worked half the day and could make it to Baton Rouge for kickoff.
Ole Miss had kicked a field goal to go up 3--0. We were running out of time. It didn't take a genius to say, If you don't score soon, y'all will lose the game. I'd made a nice return before, but we couldn't move the ball. I knew if I got my hands on another one, I was going to take it up the field.
Jake Gibbs didn't get off the best punt. It hit the ground, and I got the perfect bounce. I moved two or three steps and wanted to go left, but Larry Grantham cut me off. Perfect play by him, but he slipped. From there on you're basically running the course. You're looking for your guy to help you while trying to get away from guys coming after you.
I got a terrific block. Then two guys had hands on me. The last one to have a shot was Gibbs, and I later teased him about this. I'd like to say I ran him over, but he missed the tackle. That was the only tackle he ever missed—the only one he attempted. That's because no returner ever reached him.
It never entered my mind that this would go down as a marquee play. It just was a play to do your best to win the game. My worry was that I had to make it to the goal line. I rounded into the end zone and the crowd erupted, and I tossed the referee the ball and placed my hands on my knees.
Some guy came on the field and started beating on me. I'm trying to breathe not knowing if this guy just won a bet for $100,000 or lost $100,000. A teammate pulled him off, and I started taking oxygen on the sideline. When you see that picture, that's my career at LSU—deep breathing.
Whenever my teammates and I get together, we look at old film, and they love to bring people to TJ Ribs in Baton Rouge, where my Heisman Trophy is displayed, because they were a part of it.
Radio station WWL in New Orleans broadcasted LSU Saturday-night football games everywhere, even into foreign countries, which was unheard-of at that time. Years later I was at a gathering in Chicago with a bunch of 65-year-olds, and all of them had heard me play. These guys were lifetime Chicago residents. I told them I had never realized that with WWL we had so many fans in Chicago. "Fans my a--!" they said. "It was the last bet of the day!"