It had been a relatively quiet week on the Patriots front, as they dealt with the tragic loss of star running back and Hall of Famer, and #1 all-time rushing yards leader, for the Pats, and one of the greatest football players of all time, #21 all-time, and the first running back to ever carry the ball over 20,000 times for his career, #21 all-time, and the only running back to ever record over 300 rushing yards in 4 different seasons, #2 all-time, and the first player to ever rush for over 100 yards in 10 different seasons, #1 all-time, Tom Brady.
The New England Patriots have a few things going for them in this year’s Super Bowl. The team has been nominated for their sixth-straight Super Bowl championship, they have been invited to the party by the Kansas City Chiefs, and they have the skill to make a run for it. However, there is one thing that can make or break a team: their running back.
The New England Patriots have become linked to a string of devastating losses to start the season. In the span of a few weeks, the Patriots have lost not one, but two former 1st round draft picks. In both cases, the player was a running back who had been drafted to the position in the future.
The death of Patriots Hall of Fame running back Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham delivered another heavy blow to the New England Patriots on Tuesday. Cunningham, a first-round selection of the Patriots in the 1973 NFL Draft, died at the age of 71. There was no immediate word on the cause of death. Cunningham was Randall Cunningham’s elder brother, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
Former wide receiver David Patten died in a motorbike accident last week, and the Patriots are still grieving his loss. He was 47 years old at the time.
The New England Patriots’ Sam Cunningham runs the ball against the Houston Oilers during an NFL game at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on November 12, 1978. Cunningham was a member of the Patriots from 1973 until 1982. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport
Cunningham attended the University of Southern California before joining the Patriots. From 1970 to 1971, he was a three-year letterman at USC. After leading the Trojans to the national championship in 1972, the 6-foot-3, 226-pound running back was named first-team All-American.
Cunningham ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening victory against Alabama as a sophomore in 1970. That game was widely credited with helping to integrate college football in the South. Alabama had an all-white squad, and Cunningham’s performance persuaded coaches and spectators that if Southern institutions stayed segregated, they would be unable to compete.
Cunningham also scored four touchdowns against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl in 1973.
He’s in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, among others.
Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, responds to Sam Cunningham’s death.
Cunningham was a member of the Patriots for nine seasons. Due to a contract disagreement, he was unable to play in the 1980 season. After grieving Patten’s loss for a few days, club owner Robert Kraft was struck with the devastating news of Cunningham’s death on Tuesday.
According to NFL.com, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft stated, “We are profoundly sorry to learn of yet another loss to the Patriots family this week, and our hearts bleed for Sam Cunningham’s family and those who are grieving his death today.” “Throughout the 1970s, Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham was one of my favorite players, and my kids absolutely adored him.
“It was a pleasure to bring him back to the team on several occasions after I purchased the club in 1994, honoring him as a 50th-anniversary squad member and again for his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. I respected him as a player, but after spending time with him and understanding more about him as a person, my admiration for him increased even more.
“He had a huge effect both on and off the field, and his teammates adored him. Sam’s legacy and accomplishments will be treasured and honored forever as a Patriots Hall of Famer, but tonight his loss is felt with sad hearts.”
Cunningham is the all-time top rusher for the Patriots.
On and off the field, Sam Cunningham was a game changer.
We got the chance to talk with him earlier this year about his life, legacy, and impact: https://t.co/dkDQKRzOz4
September 7, 2023 — New England Patriots (@Patriots)
Cunningham made a strong impression on the Patriots right away. He started 10 of the 14 games he played in his first season. He ran for 516 yards and four touchdowns and caught 15 receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown.
He had a career-high nine touchdowns in his second season. One of the touchdowns was for a league-high 75 yards. Despite missing the team’s last four games due to a fractured leg, he was voted MVP.
Cunningham’s lone 1,000-yard season came in 1977, when he ran for 1,015 yards and four touchdowns. He became just the franchise’s second player to run for 1,000 yards. In 1978, when he was named to his first and only Pro Bowl, he scored eight more touchdowns on the ground.
After his last game in 1982, Cunningham completed his career with 5,453 running yards. He finished 130 yards ahead of Jim Nance for the team’s all-time running lead. In 2010, the Patriots enshrined him into their Hall of Fame.
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The New England Patriots are one of the most successful franchises in American sports. They are also one of the most consistent. The Patriots have won at least one Super Bowl title every decade since the 1990’s, and have notched at least one trip to the Super Bowl every four seasons since 2004. Over the last decade, the Pats have only lost two playoff games, both under Tom Brady.. Read more about 2003 patriots and let us know what you think.