Ex-USC, New England Patriots Star Fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham Dies At 71

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Sam “Bam” Cunningham Death: Obituary – Ex-USC and New England Patriots full back Sam Cunningham has died at his home in California due to an unknown cause.

Sam was a 71-year-old who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns as USC defeat the all-white Alabama team to open the season in 1970.

Cunningham is survived by his wife, Cine, daughter Samahndi, brothers Bruce, Anthony, and Randall, niece Vashti Cunningham, and nephew Randall II.


Sam was born and raised in Santa Barbara. After his playing career, Cunningham worked as a landscape contractor in California.

A former Bryant assistant, Jerry Claiborne, had mentioned, “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.”

A teammate of Cunningham’s at USC, Lynn Swann said, “The entire SEC, especially Alabama, owes Sam Cunningham a tremendous debt of thanks and appreciation for his play that opened the door to Black athletes in 1970.

Sam earned the nickname “Bam” for his bruising goal-line dives when the Trojans had a record of 24-8-2 during his three years with them.

Cunningham won the All-American award in 1972 after he captained the Trojans to a national championship.

One of his college greatest showdowns was when he ran for four touchdowns, winning the MVP award, in a 42-17 win.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement: “Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham was one of my favorite players throughout the ’70s and my sons all loved him, After I bought the team in 1994, it was my honor to welcome him back to the team on multiple occasions, recognizing him as a 50th-anniversary team member and again for his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.