Cunningham not your normal type kicker

It all started in the season opener of his senior year in high school. Kellis Cunningham, a safety and wide receiver who had shifted his focus to kicking for Carrollton Creekview, was given a tall order on the first offensive play against Lewisville. "It was my job to crack (block) the linebacker," he said.

It all started in the season opener of his senior year in high school.

Kellis Cunningham, a safety and wide receiver who had shifted his focus to kicking for Carrollton Creekview, was given a tall order on the first offensive play against Lewisville. "It was my job to crack (block) the linebacker," he said.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Cunningham, however, handled the linebacker alright—gave him 7-8 stitches on the chin and a mild concussion in fact. "That gave me confidence," he said. "It let everyone know I was not just a basic kicker."

That has not changed since the junior arrived at SMU.

Cunningham is still a kicker first on Saturdays and has handled kickoffs the past two years for the Mustangs.

Yet in practice he works with the special teams and sometimes doubles as a scout team cornerback. That may explain the five tackles he had last season as a kicker.

Cunningham, however, does not mind playing multiple roles on the team. "When I got here," he said, "I knew one of the changes was going to need to play different positions."

That is why one of his fondest memories is the two hard hits he had against Arkansas State his freshman year in mop-up duty. The former safety simply loves to hit.

Yet that does not come before his kicking game.

The junior, who expects to continue handling kickoffs said the Mustangs have not been kicking in practice and that the position is still up for grabs. Cunningham can still expect to be challenged in both by All-Conference punter Thomas Morstead.

The kickoff specialist is not, however, backing down from the challenge. He instead embraces it just as he did the challenge of blocking that linebacker from Lewisville.

That is the attitude that head coach June Jones and his coaching staff are trying to instill on the Hilltop.

"We need to always pursue a higher level," Cunningham said. "The coaches say they don't want us to be better than a USC or Ohio State.

"They want us to be better than the Green Bay Packers."


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