Cunningham starred at USC from 1970-72, earning All-American honors in his final season. In his first collegiate game, he rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Alabama, a performance so impressive that it reportedly helped lead Crimson Tide head coach Bear Bryant to integrate his program.
Cunningham was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. He played nine seasons with the Patriots, rushing for 5,453 yards and 43 touchdowns and earning Pro Bowl honors in 1978.
In 2010, Cunningham was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. His contributions on and off the field were the subject of a flurry of tributes on social media this afternoon.
#FightOnForever, Sam “Bam” Cunningham.
The All-American fullback, Rose Bowl MVP and College Football Hall of Famer, whose performance in USC’s 1970 win at Alabama has often been credited with helping integrate Southern football, died on Tuesday in Inglewood. He was 71.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 7, 2021
Sam Cunningham was one of the all timers. Not just a great football player but an incredible man. Really had a huge influence on my team at USC. Loved when I got to see him. RIP to a legend. #FightOnForever
— Matt Leinart (@MattLeinartQB) September 7, 2021
All the stories about how Sam Cunningham helped integrate Bear Bryant’s Alabama program are riveting, so check them all out https://t.co/L4MMbvft5A
— David Steele (@David_C_Steele) September 7, 2021
RIP to the 🐐 Sam “Bam” Cunningham, one of the greatest Football players in USC history but also one the greatest people that I have ever met. He changed College Football forever… This one hurts😢🙏🏾🕊 pic.twitter.com/pCEhValMGM
— gavin morris (@DaGman7) September 7, 2021
So sad to see this. A real sports legend. Was such a treat to get to know Sam “Bam” Cunningham and hear some of his stories. RIP to a great one. https://t.co/gVZvt0Wqoz
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 7, 2021
RIP to Sam “Bam” Cunningham, one of the most impact players in the history of college football. While there are some myths and realities surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game, this quote (next tweet) will always remain a crucial part of Cunningham’s legacy:https://t.co/TShkirjh9d
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 7, 2021
I’ve hesitated as I got older to overpraise that USC-Alabama game. So much mythology overshadows that being such a great moment.
But Sam Cunningham deserves props for his great career beyond that game.
— Evan Barnes〽️ (@evan_b) September 7, 2021
RIP to a Patriots legend pic.twitter.com/2gWkqaJ8TS
— GilletteNation (@gillettenation) September 7, 2021
The older brother of star NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, Sam left an indelible mark on the sport of college football. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.
Rest in peace, Sam.
The post College Football World Pays Tribute To Sam Cunningham appeared first on The Spun.