The Straight Man

Lucy had Ricky Ricardo. Johnny Carson had Ed McMahon. Jerry Lewis had Dean Martin. Jerry Seinfeld had George Costanza. Or is that the other way around? You get the idea. Every great team has the person others are focused on, and then there's the 'straight man', otherwise known as the 'other guy'. When talking about Washington's two standout cornerbacks - Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham - is there any question who the 'other guy' is?

"I don't worry about all that stuff," Cunningham told "I just go out there and play. I'm having fun. It's fun anyways because when they don't look at him they are throwing at me."

With Johnson's resume - including back-to-back second-team all Pac-10 honors - serving as notice to opposing offensive coordinators, it will be up to Cunningham to provide the knockout punch in Washington's 1-2 cornerback arsenal. He started the last five games of 2003 when Roc Alexander went down with an injury, so there's ample evidence to suggest he's up to the task.

"He ended up being our most-improved of the spring," new UW Cornerbacks Coach Jimmy Lake told "He's very coachable. I ask him to do something and he's like a robot. The one thing he does need to work on is his ball skills - knocking the football down and catching passes. Derrick Johnson is really good at that, at making the big play. Sam will do the job, has great discipline and man-eyes and we are looking for big things from him this year."

Man-eyes? In man-to-man coverage, the cornerbacks have to stay disciplined and have their eyes on their man at all times. "If the play goes play-action, sometimes corners can get their eyes in the backfield, so that's when we lose receivers downfield," said Lake. "That's why we feel confident about having Sam out there because he has those 'man-eyes'."

What Cunningham has been working on this summer is building up his body so his 'man-eyes' are supplimented with 'man-shoulders'. In the spring of 2001 Sam missed all of spring camp with an injured shoulder, and he's been doing all he can to make sure that it never happens again.

"I worked out with Pete (Kaligis) and Steve (Emtman)," Sam said. "They had us pushing hard. I was trying to get stronger because I've had shoulder surgeries in the past. I was really working my shoulders, arms and legs. And when I went home I worked out with my coach. My high school coach at home is starting up a business training people. He was training me, helping me lift weights and running and stuff out there.

"I've been working on my feet a lot this summer. I worked a lot on going out and getting the ball, catching it, trying to judge the ball in the air. I had some of the quarterbacks throw me the ball and they have the machine that shoots the ball out and I was using that too."

When a lot of players went home and stayed home, Cunningham only spent only a week and a half in Los Angeles this past summer. As a three-year letterwinner, Sam has some things he wants to accomplish before he finishes his Husky career, including the procurement of some hardware along the way.

"I want to get a lot more interceptions. I have one in my career and I would like to add to that. I want to cover right and help the team win. But my biggest goal is to get to the Rose Bowl and get a ring. Or any bowl. I need a ring. That's what I want and that's what I'm working for."

"I want a ring on my finger." And if it means being Derrick Johnson's straight man, so be it.

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