Remembering Sam Cunningham

With the Rose Bowl today, it’s appropriate to remember USC fullback Sam Cunningham, who died in September at age 71.

Cunningham scored a record four touchdowns on goal-line TD dives against Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl and was named the game’s MVP.

He earned All-American honors in 1972 and was captain of the undefeated national championship team that was considered by many to be the greatest in college football history.

He was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1992.

Cunningham rushed 1,579 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career, including 13 in 1972. He gained the moniker “Bam” for his crunching goal line dives.

As a sophomore in 1970 under coach John McKay, Cunningham was part of USC’s all-African-American backfield, along with quarterback Jimmy Jones and running back Clarence Davis, the first of its kind in Division I.

He then enjoyed a successful career in the NFL with the New England Patriots, rushing for 5,453 yards in nine seasons to become the Patriots’ all-time leading rusher. He scored 49 TDs and was a Pro Bowl pick in 1978.

When he died, I wrote about USC’s woeful obituary on him.

29 thoughts on “Remembering Sam Cunningham

    1. Ed, the blogger will say that you were one of a kind, that nobody could shake their damn heads like you, not even close, that if needed, you could pick up the missus, and that you turned unemployment into an art form.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent write up Scott on one of the greatest Trojans of all time Sam Cunningham from Santa Barbara, CA. Certainly deserves a statute in front of the Mckay Center or Heritage Hall especially if the Wild Bunch has one why not Sam Bam.

    Just a note on the Cunningham family. Sam, really wanted his brother Randall who was a talented QB at Santa Barbara High to come to USC, but Paul Hackett told him he would never play QB at SC maybe as a defensive back, so Randy went to UNLV to play for Harvey Hype , and we all know what a great NFL Career he had. Kind of makes you wonder about Paul Hackett as a judge of talent, and what Randall could have done at USC as a qb with alot of talent around him.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Fired up for the Rose Bowl………I give Utah a decent chance to beat Ohio St. today with all their receivers opting out, and Kyle Willingham is a good football coach that has his teams prepared for big games.

    Lots of memories of the Rose Bowl. The 1975 Haden to Mckay last second TD, and then the 2 point conversion to Shelton Diggs to defeat Ohio St. and Woody Hayes was one of the great ones.

    Obviously, the National Championship game vs. Texas in the Carroll-Leinart-Bush era was tough to beat also.

    Anyone have any other USC Rose Bowl games that they attended which they remember as special. No question there has been alot of great USC Rose Bowl games, and personally I am anxious to see USC get back to the greatest bowl game once again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Rose Bowl SHOULD be the best Bowl yet. Two talented, physical, well coached teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one comes down to the last play.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Larry Scott the gift that keeps on giving to the pac-12. 6 months later after being shown the door. Kinda with Haden hiring Helton and USC.

        Liked by 1 person


    How in the world did you let Quarterbacks CJ Stroud-Ohio State, Bryce Young,-Alabama and Ugalelei- Clemson ALL get away from you. Both of you should be embarrassed you let USC down, and took money you did not earn.

    I know each and every one of you think Kedon Slovis, and Jaxson Dart is the answer, and sadly which is worse so did Helton and Harrell. If we had just one of those QB’s we lost it would make the rebuilding process much easier for Coach Riley. I don’t care how much Dart develops he will never be in the same ability class as those three.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol none of those guys you mentioned. Were going to go to USC with Helton as head coach and Harrell’s shyty air raid offense. Have you not heard? The most used comments by top recruits not going to USC. “It was my dream school or my main school but I didn’t go to USC because of the culture. It was too laid back. Thanks USC for keeping Helton too long. Missed out on 2 heismans (Tua&Young) and some big time talent. All to keep a lying used car salesmen to save some money. Bohn, Folt Swans and Haden’s stench of incompetence has made USC a dumpster fire until LR wanted the job. Those 4 have set the program back 10 years. 2011-2021.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. One of the first USC football players who made a tremendous impression on me growing up – the game Sam and USC played in Birmingham vs Crimson Tide and especially in those Rose Bowl games – Rest In Peace – Sam Cunningham – you will Fight On forever – thanks Scott for tribute to Sam.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Definitely true—– Stroud, and Ugalele, and Young will all be 1st round draft choices, and all 3 from Southern California could win a Heisman Trophy. You can’t let those type of players get away.

    Dart might make the NFL probably a 2nd round draft pick.


    1. Ugalele is not a first round QB. Did you watch any of Clemson’s games? He was holding them back. With his erratic plays and turnovers. Mediocre is what I’ve saw out of him so far. He needs to improve big time before he even thinks about getting in the 1st round of the NFL draft.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So Ohio St’s top NFL-caliber split ends opt out of the Rose Bowl, and the second string guy amasses 380 yards of catches, the Buckeyes get nearly 700 yards of offense, and Ohio St makes the biggest comeback in Rose Bowl history.

    This is probably good for SC because a Utah team patting itself on the back for a Rose Bowl win might have swayed high schoolers on the fence to go to Utah.

    And so the Ohio St. football myth continues with this remarkable game.

    And I love how the Rose Bowl so often eclipses the other supposedly big games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good call. I wanted Utah before I read your piece ….but you’re right —it’s best Utah ends up with the “L”….


  7. This clown Baylor coach who’s gone for it twice in his end of the field in the 1st quarter on 4th down is who you all were salivating over and lording on with endless effusive praise. Those 2000 word posts you spent all that time on really were something!


    1. With the transfer portal and many kids sitting out for the draft, no one can knock someone’s preference for a coach. I wanted Campbell and nothing that has happened post regular season has changed my mind. Aranda is no clown no matter what happened tonight. Only clown is you. I would have been thrilled with Aranda!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Looks like Kiel McDonald Utah’s running back coach for the last 5 years. Is headed to USC for the same position. According to On3 We Are SC.

    Liked by 1 person

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