In 1973, Cunningham was selected 11th overall by the Patriots in that year’s draft out of the University of Southern California where he had helped the Trojans win a National Championship as a consensus All-American during his three colligiate seasons.
Sam Cunningham is the Patriots' all-time leading rusher (5,453 yards) and his 43 rushing TDs are second in team history to Jim Nance.
He earned the nickname "Sam Bam" at USC for his daring dives over goal-line pileups, but his impact extended well beyond the playing field. https://t.co/UgPoVLQpY5
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 7, 2021
Cunningham spent all nine years of his NFL career with the Patriots, appearing in 107 games from 1973-79 and 81-82 becoming the teams all-time leading rusher along the way with 5,453 yards on the ground.
During the 1978 season, Cunningham was a key member of the Patriots record-setting rushing attack that saw the team compile a then NFL record 3,165 total rushing yards. He was named to his only Pro Bowl that same year.
The 1978 Patriots rushing record would stand for 41 more years before the 2019 Baltimore Ravens would surpass them.
Following the conclusion of the 1982 season, Cunningham retired from the NFL.
Cunningham finished his professional career with 5,453 rushing yards, 210 receptions for 1,905 yards, and 49 total touchdowns, 43 of which were on the ground.
In the years that followed post-football, Cunningham was selected to both the College Football and Patriots Hall of Fame’s in 2010 along with being named a member of the Patriots 50th anniversary team in 2009.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft later released the following statement on Tuesday evening.
Robert Kraft on Sam Cunningham pic.twitter.com/saJZIXWhe0
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 7, 2021
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