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Leading the rush

catching up with Sam Cunningham

ENGLEWOOD, California - He sits atop the all-time rushing list for the New England Patriots.

Sam Cunningham played nine seasons (1973-1982) with New England rushing for 5,453 yards - the most of any running back to ever wear a Patriots uniform. The closest active running back to him is Kevin Faulk, who enters the season with 2,489 yards.

“I tell everybody I’m only the team’s leading rusher by default because of the way the system is set up now," said Cunningham.

"If the system was set up when I played Curtis Martin would be the leading rusher. He was an outstanding back we had who left through free agency. It makes me smile, but I didn’t anticipate it being this long.”

These days, Cunningham resides in Englewood, California with his wife. They have two children, Jamela, 23 and Samahndi, 17, and one grandchild, Zamiyah, who is two.

“I grew up in Santa Barbara and even when I played I always came back pretty much every off-season,” said Cunningham. “I stayed here and worked out then came back during the season. It’s just home and where I was born and raised. A lot of my friends and relatives are over this way.

“When I was playing my mom and dad were still alive in Santa Barbara. I liked to go up and hang out with them as much as possible. I was fortunate I did because the last two years that I played they both passed away one year right after another.”

Cunningham is now working as a landscape contractor for A & D landscaping. He has been involved with it for almost 20 years.

”I have always gravitated towards that and plus it’s an outdoor job, so I don’t have to dress in a suite and tie,” said Cunningham. “That’s pretty much in and of itself why it attracted me. It’s fun being outdoors and fun taking something and turning it into something else real nice.”

In addition to landscaping, Cunningham has been talking to a lot of players coming out of college, who are looking go to the next level.

”I try to temper them a little bit and make them understand it’s a business,” said Cunningham. “You get paid, but you have to work for that pay. There are a lot of traps out there. I learned a lot from my teammates and a lot of people I worked with. It makes no sense to take what I learned and not pass it on so somebody else can get some use out of it.”

Community and charity are extremely important to Cunningham as well. His youngest daughter, Zamiyah, is a Cancer survivor and he does a lot of fund-raising for the cCancer Foundation.   Continued...

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The Cunningham File

NAME: Sam Cunningham

BIRTHDAY: August 15, 1950

RESIDES: Englewood, California

COLLEGE: USC

CLAIM TO FAME: The New England Patriots all-time leading rusher

DID YOU KNOW? Sam Cunningham is the older brother of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham.

AQUIRED: New England Patriots first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 1973 NFL Draft

FOOTBALL PLAYER YOU MOST ADMIRE: Barry Sanders

HARDEST HITTER YOU PLAYED AGAINST: Sam Hunt

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THE N.E. MEDIA WROTE/SAID: I tried not to, but sometimes you could not help it. When it was negative of course everybody heard it and it hurt, so that just motivated me to try and do better.

WOULD YOU EVER PARTICIPATE IN A REALITY TV SHOW: I doubt it

IF YOU COULD CLONE ANYONE WHO WOULD IT BE: My parents

EVER WALK THE FREEDOM TRAIL: No I never did. If I had stayed in the off-season I probably would have.

CLAM CHOWDA OR LOBSTA: Clam Chowder

ROTARIES – KEEP THEM OR GET RID OF THEM: Get rid of them

CANDLEPIN BOWLING OR BIG BALL BOWLING: Candlepin Bowling

PICK TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL: New England Patriots. I pick them to defend.

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