Legendary college and NFL running back Sam 'Bam' Cunningham has passed away at age 71, the University of Southern California has announced. Cunningham burst onto the collegiate football scene in 1970 when he rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Legion Field. The performance by Cunningham and other Black players on the USC roster ultimately convinced Alabama and other SEC holdouts to integrate their rosters. Thanks to the transition, the Crimson Tide would win three national championships themselves during the 1970s.
Famous for leaping over the pile in short-yardage situations, Cunningham finished his college career with four second-half touchdowns from 1, 1, 1 and 2 yards out against Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl. Drafted at No. 11 overall, Cunningham played 10 seasons with the New England Patriots. A Pro Bowl selection in 1978, he was part of a backfield that accounted for a then-NFL record 3,165 yards. Cunningham remains the Patriots all-time rushing leader and accounted for more than 7,300 yards from scrimmage in his career. Cunningham was the older brother of NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham and uncle to Olympic high jumper Vashti Cunningham.