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College, Pro Football Legend From South Coast Dies

USC Athletics
Football legend Sam "Bam" Cunningham is credited with helping to break the still existing color line in college football in the Deep South during the 1970s.

A legendary college and pro football star from the South Coast has died.

Sam “Bam” Cunningham was a standout who was credited with helping to integrate college football in the Deep South.

Cunningham played at Santa Barbara High School. He was a fullback who starred for the USC Trojans. Cummingham was the MVP of the 1973 Rose Bowl, scoring four touchdowns.

But, perhaps his greatest accomplishment occurred during a 42-21 route of fabled college football powerhouse Alabama. USC had an integrated team, but, Alabama was still all-white.

The incredible performance by Cunningham in the game convinced Alabama coach Bear Bryant, the school, and many fans that they would have to integrate to have a competitive team.

Cunningham went on to play ten years in the NFL with the Patriots.

He was one of four brothers who attended Santa Barbara High School. They were all sports standouts. His brother Randall was a star NFL quarterback. Their legacy was remembered when the new track at Santa Barbara High School was named after the Cunningham family.

Cunningham was living in Inglewood, where he was a contractor. He was 71 years old.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.