2008 defensive back set to visit A&M

Signing day was more than two months ago, but Texas A&M may have a late addition to the class. Speed athlete Akeem Cunningham visits with Aggie Websider's David Sandhop about why he didn't sign with anyone in February and what he's looking for on his trip to A&M this weekend.

While the attention of most recruitniks is clearly focused on the upcoming Class of 2009, there's still some work to do with the Class of 2008 as prospects look to clear up any academic qualification issue and prepare to start their collegiate careers this summer.

However, a handful of recruits are still trying to find the right opportunity and college coaches are still trying to put the finishing touches on the Class of 2008. That's the case for East Orange, New Jersey speed athlete Akeem Cunningham, who did not sign with a college in February.

"I was supposed to go to North Carolina, but I didn't take the SAT," Cunningham said. "With playing football and basketball, I had something going on every weekend so I didn't take the test. When colleges saw that, they backed off. I couldn't visit anywhere."

NCAA rules state that a prospect must have an ACT or SAT on record before they are allowed to take an official visit paid by the host school. Thus, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound defensive back/wide receiver did not visit any schools or sign a letter-of-intent on National Signing Day in early February.

Cunningham eventually took the SAT this spring and he scored far above the level needed to qualify academically. In short, the playmaker was back on the market, but he also realized that he needed to take matters into his own hands and start contacting schools and directing them to his seven minute highlight video on the Internet.

Teams such as North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Ohio, Western Michigan, and Maryland have been involved at some point with the New Jersey native, but it was a phone call out of the blue to Texas A&M last week that may become the most important call of his life.

"I liked Mike Sherman as a coach at Green Bay and I heard that he was at Texas A&M," Cunningham said. "I am very familiar with Texas A&M, and I watched their game against Miami last fall. So I gave A&M a call and asked them to see my highlight video."

Cunningham had his highlight video posted on the Internet, and it didn't take long for the Aggies to call back.

"I called them last Wednesday, and Coach McMillian called me back on Thursday," Cunningham said. "He said he liked my video and wanted me to come down for a visit. He said they want to see me in person and get to know me before they offer."

So what will Cunningham do if the Aggies like what they see and extend a 2008 scholarship on the visit?

"If they offer, there's a good chance I'll put pen to paper," Cunningham said. "It's a great opportunity with a great coaching staff."

Cunningham admits he's never been to Texas, but despite his unfamiliarity with the Lone Star state he is a big fan of the Big 12 Conference and follows many of the schools in the conference including Texas A&M. In addition, his parents and brother are supporting his recruiting efforts that will likely take him away from his home state for the next four years.

"I've always been a big fan of the Big 12 and how they play down there," Cunningham said. "My family sees this as an opportunity to get away from New Jersey and broaden my experiences and see other areas so they are comfortable with me going away to school."

The versatile speedster played several positions at East Orange High School including defensive back, wide receiver, and some quarterback. Last season, Cunningham caught 58 passes for 862 yards and 14 touchdowns. On defense, he made 42 tackles and picked off six passes, and he returned one for a defensive touchdown. His performance garnered numerous postseason awards as he was named to the all-state, all-county, and all-city teams in 2007.

Cunningham has sub-4.5 speed, clocking a 4.49 at a combine last year. However, it's his vertical jump that gives him his advantage on the field.

"I play a lot of basketball and I can jump. I can dunk it," Cunningham said. "If the ball is in the air, I usually win the match-up because I can go up and get the ball. I've got good hands and I'm precise in my routes in the spread offense."

In fact, the New Jersey product mirrors his game to one of the game's all-time great cover cornerbacks, Deion Sanders.

"I can press cover and play aggressively. If I get my hands on the ball, I'll make something happen like Deion Sanders," Cunningham said. "He made things happen and had that swagger which is something I've tried to develop on the field."

With Texas A&M set to graduate a large number of defensive backs after next season, the addition of Cunningham could be a big bonus to the Aggies' 2008 class. He's scheduled to arrive this Friday and will attend the weekend festivities for the Maroon and White Spring Game.

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