The Hall welcomes Sam Cunningham
The College Football Hall of Fame welcomes another member from USC. Sam “Bam” Cunningham has been inducted as an honorary member of the 2010 class. He becomes the 39th Trojan to be selected, joining a long list of former players and coaches.
Cunningham was a 1972 All-America selection. In that year, he was also the Rose Bowl player of the game, after a four touchdown performance in a decisive victory over Ohio State, which solidified the vote to make USC the unanimous choice for National Champion.
His name won’t be found atop any lists compiled of greatest running backs to come through the program or best to wear cardinal and gold at any position. But when it came to altering the football landscape, it would be difficult to not add the name Cunningham among those significant to change.
In 1970, Jerry Claiborne, an assistant coach to the legendary Bear Bryant said:
“Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in twenty years”.
This came after the historic meeting between the Trojans and Tide, which marked the first integrated football in the state of Alabama. Bear Bryant’s team of all White players was embarrassed, as Cunningham romped for 135 yards and 2 scores in the victory. It was a performance that changed the southern view of a college football player, and ultimately altered longstanding legislation on segregation.
Cunningham spent his entire NFL career with the New England Patriots, earning a Pro Bowl roster spot in 1978.