Sam Cunningham dies at 71; Fostered integration on the football field

In 1977, Alabama had 17 scholarship black soccer players. Samuel Lewis Cunningham Jr. was born August 15, 1950 in Santa Barbara, Califor...


In 1977, Alabama had 17 scholarship black soccer players.

Samuel Lewis Cunningham Jr. was born August 15, 1950 in Santa Barbara, California. His father was a railway worker. His mother, Zoe (Ivory) Cunningham, died when he was young; he was raised by his father and his stepmother, Mabel (Crook) Cunningham, a nurse.

Sam and his brothers, Anthony, Bruce and Randall, a future quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles and three other NFL teams, were all athletic. Sam was introduced to organized sports in elementary school, where he played basketball, baseball, volleyball and flag football.

He was drafted by coach John McKay at USC and, during his three seasons with the team, gained 1,579 yards on 337 carries. He scored four short-distance touchdowns in the Trojans’ 42-17 win over Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl, which ended a season 12-0. The team that year was ranked No.1 in college football.

Cunningham was selected by the New England Patriots with the 11th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. In his nine seasons with the team, he racked up 5,453 rushing yards, including 516 in his first season, a Patriots rookie record and 1,015 in 1977, making him the second Patriot to exceed 1,000 yards in a season. He missed the 1980 season in a contract dispute, which prompted the Patriots to trade him for the Miami Dolphins. But he failed the team’s physique and returned to the Patriots shortly before the 1981 season.

“Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham was one of my favorite players throughout the ’70s, and my sons all loved him,” Patriots owner, Robert kraft, said in a statement. “After purchasing the team in 1994, I had the honor of welcoming him to the team on several occasions, recognizing him as a member of the team for the 50th anniversary and again for his induction into the Temple. of Patriots fame. “

Cunningham became a landscape contractor after his playing career ended.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Samahndi Cunningham; and his brothers.

Cunningham joined Jones and Davis in the backfield early in the first quarter of that historic 1970 game against Alabama.

“I have not entered any game that seeks to change the story, although the story tends to be changed by things of this nature”, he said The Santa Barbara Independent This year. “I always tried to play to the best of my ability, and that’s what I did that night. I was put in the right place and I was touched by the hand of God.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Sam Cunningham dies at 71; Fostered integration on the football field
Sam Cunningham dies at 71; Fostered integration on the football field
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