Sam Cunningham, USC legend credited with helping integrate southern football, dies at 71
Sam Cunningham was a legendary running back at USC, widely credited for helping to integrate southern football.
Sadly, Cunningham passed away at the age of 71 on Tuesday in California.
USC announced the news via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon:
A true Trojan Legend. Rest in peace Sam “Bam” Cunningham.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Cunningham family. pic.twitter.com/EkdymZvu84
— USC Football (@USC_FB) September 7, 2021
In 1970, Cunningham’s performance against Alabama in Birmingham is widely credited as a reason southern football integrated. From the USC release:
As a sophomore in 1970, his 135-yard, 2-TD debut performance in the Trojans’ season-opening 42-21 victory over Alabama in Birmingham provided a catalyst for the integration of college football in the South.
Cunningham’s 4 short goal line scoring dives against Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl earned him game MVP honors and he was later inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1992.
Cunningham has also been inducted into the USC Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and the New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame.
Current USC coach Clay Helton and former USC QB Matt Leinart paid tribute to Cunningham on Twitter:
Extremely saddened by the loss of a college football legend. As good a man as he was a player. Thank you Sam for being the example of what a Trojan should be. You will be missed but never forgotten. https://t.co/1Fj1FMSkpn
— Clay Helton (@USCCoachHelton) 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