Just when it appeared NC State had focused all of it’s recruiting attention on the class of 2009, the Wolfpack announced a surprise addition to the class of 2008 late last week. State inked Akeem Cunningham from East Orange (NJ) High School, giving the Pack another talented cornerback for the upcoming season.
At 5-11, 185 pounds and boasting 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Cunningham was a two-way star for East Orange who racked up 14 touchdowns as a receiver and six interceptions as a defensive back. His play was crucial in leading his squad to a state championship this past season.
Because he didn’t take the SAT until after signing day this past February, Cunningham was unable to commit to a college. However, once he had a qualifying score in hand, Cunningham quickly landed attention from the likes of Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Penn State and UNC along with NC State.
Originally it appeared Cunningham was destined for Vanderbilt. However, a late push by NC State and some local family connections were enough to sway him to the Pack.
“I just felt more comfortable down at NC State,” said Cunningham. “I think it was a better choice for my family. It was a good fit. Coach Tom O’Brien has been winning since he was at Boston College and I think he’s going to bring those same leadership skills down to NC State.
“What happened was, I had called up to NC State because I was real interested in them because I have family in North Carolina and it seemed like a good match. I called up coach Reed and he got me in touch with coach Petercuskie. He told me that they don’t just offer anybody and they wanted to meet me in person to make sure I was the right kind of kid. He told me that they knew my football skills and I was a heck of an athlete but they wanted to make sure I was a good character kid. So he came up and we’ve had a good time talking and he seemed like a coach I want to play for.”
With plans to report to NC State on July 7, Cunningham said another huge factor in the Pack’s favor was their opportunity for early playing time. The senior defensive back said he believes he has what it will take to make an impact early in his career.
“I felt like NC State gave me a chance to play early,” he said. “I feel like right now I’m equipped with the tools to come in and play as a true freshman. So I think if I just come in and work hard and learn the system, I can get on the field as a true freshman and NC State gave me the best opportunity to do that.”
With a quick, whirlwind recruiting behind him, Cunningham is now focused on his arrival in Raleigh. He finished his interview with a statement he asked be passed on to the Wolfpack faithful.
“I want to let the fans know that they’re getting a talented kid that’s going to come in and work hard to be a part of the Wolfpack family.”