Cunningham The Latest Patriot Honored

Patriots RB Sam "Bam" Cunningham had plenty of bright moments for the New England Patriots. Younger fans may not remember why Cunningham was such big part of Patriots history. PI's Kevin Saleeba takes a look back, remembering one of New England's best players.

Sam "Bam" Cunningham inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame
By Kevin Saleeba
Sunday Aug. 15, 2010

FOXBORO – Sam Cunningham came to the Patriots in 1973 with the nickname "Bam." He earned that nickname in New England as he ran through would-be tacklers like a freight-train through Plexiglas for nine NFL seasons.

His hard-nose running style also earned him the distinction of being the Patriots all-time leading rusher. The Patriots honored Cunningham, their newest Hall of Fame inductee, during halftime of their preseason game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night.

"Just to be appreciated and to be remembered is the thanks that I really enjoy as I'm sure my teammates do also," Cunningham told the media prior to the game.

Cunningham played in 107 games from 1973-79 and 81-82 for the Patriots with 5,453 career rushing yards and his 43 rushing touchdowns are second all-time behind Jim Nance (45). Cunningham averaged 3.9 yards per carry in his career.

One of three Patriot first round picks in 1973 (John Hannah and Darryl Stingley the others), Sam was the 11th player chosen in the entire draft. He had eleven career 100 yard rushing games during his career and became the first Patriot since Nance in 1967 to rush for over 1000 yards in a season when he rushed for 1,015 yards on 270 attempts. That mark ranked fifth in the AFC and eighth among all NFL runners in 1977. He averaged 3.8 yards a carry that season.

Sam Cunningham dives for a TD
Running back Sam Cunningham #39 of the New England Patriots dives over players for a touchdown as linebacker Rusty Chambers #51 of the Miami Dolphins tries to block Cunningham from the end zone as John Hannah #73 and Andy Johnson #32 of the Patriots lay at the bottom of the pile during a game at Schaefer Stadium on October 22, 1978 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Cunningham was the Patriots leading rusher for six seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1978 after totaling 1,065 combined yards. He had 768 rushing yards with 297 yards on 31 receptions. That same year, he was the main reason the Patriots set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season with 3,165 total yards.

Cunningham's 49 overall touchdowns are third in team history. He ranks eighth on the Patriots all-time scoring list with 294 points.

Cunningham said he enjoyed his playing career in New England. "I enjoyed so much playing with the guys that I played with and playing for the coaches that I played with."

In addition to the Hall of Fame, Cunningham is a member of the Patriots All-1970s Team, the Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, and the 50th Anniversary Team.

On being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, Cunningham said it's "definitely an honor… Well, it's not a validation of anything. We came, we put in our work as hard as we could and as much as we could and for the fans and the people to appreciate it. At the end of the day, that's all you want."

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Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin ( here ).

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