Meyer Made Choice Easy For Cunningham

When Jermaine Cunningham had to choose where he will be going to school to play football the decision was an easy one. The 6-4, 210-pound defensive end from Stone Mountain (GA) Stephenson, who is rated four stars by, saw the vision that Coach Urban Meyer has for the University of Florida football program and that is all he needed to commit to the Gators.

(Jermaine Cunningham profile)

Cunningham is the sackmaster supreme, the pass rusher with the Lawrence Taylor/Jevon Kearse like speed and ability to disrupt opponents. In a season in which his high school team made it to the state semifinals, Cunningham had more than 25 quarterback sacks.

He came to Florida on an official visit in December and that was enough to convince him that Florida is his best place to spend his college football career.

"I felt comfortable with the community, the players, and the coaching staff attitudes toward the future and their players were also a deciding factor," said Cunningham.

It was the vision that Meyer has for the program that was the ultimate sales tool. Meyer has been consistent since he arrived at Florida a little more than a year ago. He wants players who have the character to be model citizens off the field and top performers at practice and on game days.

"Coach Meyer has changed the image of the Florida program and it is getting better now and will be even better in the future," said Cunningham. "We will be able to compete for SEC championship every year."

Cunningham isn't the first recruit who has gushed about how Meyer fires them up and makes them want to be a part of the Florida program. When Cunningham was in Gainesville, he saw first hand how Meyer interacts with the Florida players.

"Coach Meyer is a person that every time you see him you never see him down," said Cunningham. "He is really friendly and gets a long well with his player."

Cunningham is driven to be a great football player. He works hard on his game when he's on the practice field and he takes pride in his offseason work ethic. He is also driven to be a good person off the field. He listens to his parents, coaches and other adults who have taken the time to be a positive influence on his life.

"My parents and coaches taught me the fundamentals of football and have taught me something new everyday," he said. "Their support of my efforts has made a big difference in my life."

While he's finishing up his senior year at Stephenson he's a valuable member of the track team. If it weren't for football, track would be his favorite sport.

"Running track is something I like to do along with football," he said. "I get to work on my speed and quickness. I run the 4x400; 4x100 and triple jump."

He is a good student but he's also taking a course that he thinks has a practical value in his life. In addition to his academic course load, he takes an OET Service Technician class where he is learning auto repair.

"OET is an auto mechanic class that teaches us how to repair cars and I have a blast in that class," said Cunningham. "People bring in their cars and we work on them, we also get to work on our cars if something is wrong with them."

When it comes to role models, Cunningham looks no further than his parents, Joan Sudlow and George Cunningham. Their consistent presence in his life has had a strong impact on him. There is one piece of advice in particular that they gave him which he holds dear to his heart on a daily basis.

"They told me to be a leader not a follower," Cunningham said.

Cunningham is a big fan of the Carolina Panthers and believes they will win Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Kearse, the former Gator and now a Philadelphia Eagle, is one of his heroes, but the other hero that stands out in his mind is the Panthers' Julius Peppers. He says Kearse and Peppers are his favorites because they give 100 percent on ever play.

If he could give one piece of advice to an athlete who will be a senior in high school next year, Cunningham says, "All recruits should enjoy their senior season because it is the last time they will play high school football. So give it 100 percent at all times so that you don't live to regret it."

Cunningham has qualifying test scores and a solid GPA. He will be arriving at the University of Florida in late June to join the recruiting class of 2006.

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