While it’s now completely normal to see a quarterback running with the ball, football wasn’t always played that way. Traditionally, the man under center stood tall in the pocket trying to throw a perfect pass; over the years, though, guys like Fran Tarkenton and Randall Cunningham changed the game forever.
While it has been almost 20 years since the Philadelphia Eagles legend last hit the gridiron, Cunningham hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth. In fact, the quarterback is still making an impact on Sundays, albeit without football.
Randall Cunningham’s road to the NFL
During his time at Santa Barbara High School, Randall Cunningham was a member of both the football and track and field teams. When it came time to move on to the next level, though, the choice was made for him. UNLV didn’t have a men’s track and field program at the time, so he focused on football.
With the Rebels, Cunningham lined up under center and handled the team’s punting duties. Although he didn’t run much—during his three NCAA seasons, the quarterback carried the ball 305 times for 22 yards—Randall still made an impact. In 1984, he helped lead the program to an 11-2 regular season and a victory in the California Bowl; that campaign, however, has since been invalidated.
When his time in college ended, Cunningham entered the 1985 NFL draft and was selected in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles. While the USFL was also interested, the quarterback ended up in the City of Brotherly Love.
Changing the NFL game forever
During his first few seasons in Philadelphia, Randall Cunningham was primarily used as a ‘change of pace’ player, only entering the game in specific circumstances. In 1986, however, an injury to Ron Jaworski would force the back-up into the starting role; Cunningham would never look back.
While a dual-threat quarterback might be the standard today, NFL defenses didn’t know how to stop Cunningham. When they would say he was ‘The Ultimate Weapon,’ he was truly the ultimate weapon,” former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks told Jason Reid of The Undefeated. “I don’t think there was ever a quarterback who was harder to prepare for, or gave defensive players individually more problems or more concerns before the game even started.”
Although Cunningham never fully recovered after tearing his ACL in 1999, the quarterback still posted an impressive career. Beyond his stat line—he played 161 career games, passing for 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns while rushing for 4,928 yards and 35 additional scores—he helped change the perception of what it meant to play quarterback. Without Cunningham, the likes of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Lamar Jackson might not have made it in the NFL.
Randall Cunningham still makes an impact on Sundays
After his playing career, Randall Cunningham spent some time coaching high school football. These days, however, he’s doing something on Sundays that has nothing to do with sports.
During his playing career, Cunningham met Pastor Troy Johnson; the pair would form quite the bond. The former quarterback followed in Johnson’s footsteps and was ordained after his football career came to a close; now, he’s leading the nondenominational Remnant Ministries in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cunningham preaches during service and coaches the youth club’s track and field team.
While stepping to the pulpit may be a bit different than taking the field on Sunday, Randall Cunningham is still doing his part to make an impact.