Jumbo athlete visits USC, names favorite
Central (Pageland, SC) standout tight end/defensive end Justice Cunningham is considered by many to be one of the top jumbo athletes in the Palmetto State's Class of 2009. The 6'3", 232 pound performer had been courted by the home state Gamecocks for over two years, but he finally received an offer from USC while on an unofficial visit to Columbia over the weekend.
"Carolina offered me (verbally) yesterday," said Cunningham. "They said they're going to try and get everything ready Monday (to make it official). I've been waiting for it for a long time. It felt good to finally get it."
South Carolina becomes the first school to offer Cunningham, but he is also receiving strong interest from Clemson, N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee.
Cunningham, who has attended over a half dozen Gamecock home games over the past two years, said he likes several factors about the USC program.
"I like that they're trying to build the program and get everything going now. They're working hard to get better. I like that a lot. Coach (David) Reaves is recruiting me, and I like him a lot. He's real cool. He's somebody I can talk to and stuff."
While on campus, Cunningham learned a lot more about the academic side of things at South Carolina.
"It was pretty nice to see the campus and talk about stuff other than football. We talked about academics and the majors that they have. I'll probably major in sports management. I talked with Raymond Harrison, the academic advisor over all the sports," he said. "They showed us the layouts and the blueprints for the (academic enrichment center). It looks really nice. They told us we'll be the first class who will get to use it."
Cunningham also talked with Carolina coaches Brad Lawing and Ron Cooper while at USC, and they told him how he'd fit into the Gamecocks' schemes if he chooses to attend South Carolina.
"They're recruiting me as a defensive end, but they said they're going to see what they're going to do with me when I get there. They like me as a tight end a lot too. I don't really (have a preference)."
Following his trip to Columbia, Cunningham said that the Gamecocks have now emerged as the team to beat for his services.
"South Carolina and Clemson are my top two. Clemson was at the top, but now Carolina's number one."
Cunningham, who is an honors student and boasts a sterling a 4.1 GPA, is leaning towards making an early decision on his college choice.
"I might try to get it over early so I can get it out of the way before the season," he said. "The coaches are a big thing I'll look at. They've got to be cool. I've got to feel comfortable. The academics are real big. Of course playing time too."
The Central standout was joined by good friend and fellow Class of 2009 prospect Sam Montgomery at USC over the weekend, and according to Cunningham the two are strongly considering playing their college ball together.
"We played two years of AAU basketball together, and we've hung out with each other a lot. We're good friends. He wanted me to come with him this weekend. He always says there's a 99% chance we're going to college together."
Cunningham recorded 92 unassisted tackles, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries as a junior last season. On offense, he totaled 21 catches for 400 yards and 8 touchdowns. He's also a star basketball player for Central and was named the Region Player of the Year in 2007.
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