Cunningham had some big games

sports@macon.comOctober 29, 2012 

“Little Brent Cunningham.”

If you are a Georgia Tech fan and followed the Yellow Jackets in the late 1960s and early 1970s, you know that is the apt description given by hall of fame broadcaster Al Ciraldo to their outstanding running back from Eatonton. Cunningham stood 5-foot-9 and weighed about 170 pounds soaking wet, but he played a lot bigger than that.

His career stats won’t overwhelm you, but the way he got some of those yards might. In his three seasons he rushed for 1,446 yards, which ranks 17th-best all-time for the Ramblin’ Wreck. Included in those totals was a 217-yard rushing performance against Clemson that, at the time, was an all-time Tech single-game record. It still ranks third-best in school history.

That mark stood for eight seasons before Eddie Lee Ivery broke it with a 356-yard performance against Air Force in a snowstorm during the 1978 season. Cunningham also had a 190-yard game against Duke in 1969 and a 154-yard performance against the Blue Devils the next season.

Cunningham was inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982.

The running back is a legend in Eatonton, where he led Putnam County to its only state football championship in school history and a three-year record of 28-4-1 between 1965 and 1967. To give you an idea of how dominant that team was, the squad defeated Davis (located in Trenton) in the GHSA C title game 33-0 as Cunningham scored on a 48-yard scamper and a 62-yard screen pass. He was an honorable mention all-state selection as a sophomore and then the Class C Back of the Year in 1966 and 1967. He played in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Game held at Porter Stadium in Macon.

Veteran high school football coach Al Reaves, who spent 35 years on the sidelines with 32 at Putnam County, was Cunningham’s head coach. He calls him the most exciting player he ever coached. Reaves said what set him apart was his balance, as he was able to keep running after being hit.

Cunningham was a four-year starter, playing as a freshman at about 5-8 and 125 pounds. As a senior, he ballooned to around 160 pounds. He lettered in five sports during his high school career -- football, basketball, baseball, track and field and golf. He won state titles in both the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes and played on state championship teams in football, baseball and golf.

Despite his diminutive stature, Cunningham was recruited by numerous schools in the South but chose Tech early on, then coached by Bud Carson, because his father was a big Yellow Jackets fan and he went to a lot of their games as a youngster. That was the only school that he wanted to attend.

While he never gave a hard look at playing professional football, Cunningham did receive a degree in textile management. But he did not go into that field. After a brief stay in Macon following graduation from Tech, he established a land surveying business in Warner Robins in 1974, and that enterprise is still going strong today.

I can only imagine how successful Cunningham would have been as a running back under the current offensive scheme employed by the Yellow Jackets’ current head coach, Paul Johnson.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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