Gamecocks land second commitment

The Gamecocks picked up their second commitment of the 2009 recruiting class on Saturday afternoon when Central (Pageland, SC) standout jumbo athlete Justice Cunningham gave his verbal pledge to USC. Read inside for all the details.

Justice Cunningham, who measures in at an athletic 6'3" and 232 pounds, had openly favored South Carolina for several weeks, but he decided to put an end to the recruiting process and give his pledge to the Gamecocks on Saturday following USC's annual Garnet and Black Spring Game.

"I gave my verbal (commitment) to South Carolina today," said Cunningham. "It just felt like home, and it felt like it was the right time to do it. I like how everything goes down there. They're working to become a better team and compete for championships."

South Carolina first discovered Cunningham during his sophomore season when Central played Cliff Matthews' Cheraw team, and Coach David Reaves and the Gamecocks have recruited him hard ever since.

USC is the Palmetto State sleeper's only offer to date, but he said that he's receiving strong interest from programs like Clemson, N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia Georgia and Tennessee.

With other offers likely to arrive in the coming months, Cunningham was asked if that could impact his decision, but he replied that he is "firm" in his commitment to the Gamecocks.

Cunningham is a versatile athlete that's capable of playing on both sides of the ball, but he said that the Gamecocks like his size and athleticism at the tight end position.

"They're talking about playing me at tight end or maybe d-line. I really don't have a preference, but I'll probably be playing tight end. I talk with Coach Ray (Rychleski) a good bit when I go down there, and I like him a lot. He says I can block and catch passes at USC."

During his junior season, Cunningham totaled 21 catches for 400 yards and 8 touchdowns at tight end. He also recorded 92 unassisted tackles, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries on defense.

Coach Joey Mangum, who coaches Cunningham at Central High School, believes that his star pupil has the physical mindset that it takes to be a tight end in the SEC.

"He's a great player. He's got the size, and he runs good and moves good. We've used him all over the field," said Mangum. "On offense we use him as a tight end and put him at fullback sometimes just to block. He also plays some halfback. He's so physical and just really likes contact. We put him wherever we think there's a need for us to hit somebody and keep them out of the way. He does a great job wherever we play him, and he's definitely a big time player."

According to Mangum, Cunningham is equally as impressive off the field as he is on it.

"It's rare that we have a guy that's a legit Division I player, but he is. He's just an awful good player, and he's an even better kid. He works harder than anybody we've got, and he's a great student. He does everything to the max. You'll never find one that's a better person, a better worker, and a better player than what he is. He deserves everything he can get."

Cunningham, who is also a star basketball player, plays on the same AAU team and is best friends with fellow gridiron standout and Greenwood star Sam Montgomery. According to Cunningham, he plans on talking with Montgomery about potentially joining him at South Carolina.

"I'm not going to push him too hard because that's my friend, but I'll talk with him because I know he's a good player and he'll help us out a lot."

Fresh off his commitment to the Gamecocks, Cunningham closed by passing on an enthusiastic message for the Gamecock Nation.

"We're going to bring championships to USC!"

Cunningham becomes USC's second commitment in the 2009 recruiting class. He has a 4.1 GPA and projects as a full qualifier.

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