Cunningham was Rock Solid

Jim Cunningham was a typical western Pennsylvania football player - rock solid, hard working and tough as nails. He was from a different era of football and is proud of it.<br><br> Cunningham was a star at Connellsville High School and graduated in 1957. He was a highly sought after recruit.

"I could've gone to any school in the country," Cunningham recalled. "Notre Dame and I went up to Michigan State and even Oklahoma - I could've gone anywhere."

He decision to go to Pitt was a life and death decision.

"I was very poor and lived in the projects. We didn't have much and my mom worked at the YMCA and was making something like 50 cents an hour. Mom became ill and had a bad heart problem. My Mom needed an operation and we didn't have the money for the operation and Pitt promised me that they would get my mother this operation. So they wouldn't violate NCAA rules the operation was performed in front of a medical class. My mom lasted another 20 years," said Cunningham.

His never regretted his decision to go to Pitt.

"I was never out of Connellsville," Cunningham explained. "They took me out to Notre Dame on a private plane to visit, but I was never out of Connellsville and I wasn't a worldly person. When I went to Pitt Mike Ditka was my roommate. We came in together and we worked during the summer together. We were roommates at Pitt for two years before we both joined fraternities." Cunningham recalls that it was a great era at Pitt.

"It was great," Cunningham stated. "Every game was sold out and it was just a different era. I played with some good players - Freddy Cox, Ed Sharockman and Bobby Clements. Those were good times.

Cunningham is proud of the fact that he played on teams that beat Notre Dame three years in a row.

"We beat them three years in a row in 1958-59 and 1960," Cunningham said. "I scored two touchdowns in 1959 in a 28-13 victory. We beat them at Pitt Stadium and we beat them twice at Notre Dame."

Cunningham was drafted by the Washington Redskins and the AFL New York Titans when he graduated and signed with Washington.

"The NFL had the security. I would have probably lasted longer if I had gone with the Titans," said Cunningham. He played three seasons in Washington.

Cunningham became a history teacher back in Connellsville and also taught at Uniontown and Laurel Highlands, but he wasn't all through with football.

"I got a phone call from the Wheeling Ironmen," Cunningham explained. "Wheeling was a farm club of the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins. I made more money there on one Saturday or Sunday than I made in one whole month teaching school. I would teach school and then I would jump in my car and head for Wheeling and I did that for five years. I was the Most Valuable Player in 1966."

Cunningham retired from teaching in 1998 and resides in Uniontown, PA.

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