Former UNLV Rebels punter/quarterback and 2016 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame Randall Cunningham was in Las Vegas this past weekend for his On Campus Salute presented by Fidelity Investments®. Cunningham returned to Sam Boyd Stadium and was honored with an on-field introduction to the Rebel faithful and accepted a Hall of Fame plaque that will remain on permanent display at the institution.
- First-team All-America punter in 1983 and two-time PCAA Offensive Player of the Year.
- Only player to have his number (12) retired at UNLV.
- Led UNLV to its first bowl appearance in 1984 and was named MVP.
- Coached by Harvey Hyde.
- Becomes the first Rebel player to enter the Hall of Fame.
Versatile Randall Cunningham is the first player in UNLV history to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Juxtaposing his skills as a quarterback and punter, Cunningham relied on his All-America status in 1983 as a punter for the Runnin’ Rebels to get into the Hall.
“This is a club that—you set goals in life, and I know that I set many goals, (I) wanted to be in the NFL,” Cunningham said of making the elite shrine. “But to be able to have the icing on the cake, this is the greatest thing that has happened to me in sports. I’m very, very honored.”
Cunningham joins his brother, USC running back Sam (the Bam) Cunningham, who was inducted into the Hall in 2010. The elder Cunningham actually helped convince Bear Bryant to recruit African-American athletes, after he had a big game in USC’s thumping of the Crimson Tide in 1970. The Cunninghams become the fifth set of brothers to be united in the College Football Hall of Fame, which dates to 1951.
“I feel so good about it because we both went to different colleges,” Cunningham said. “We came from the same high school, of course, Santa Barbara (Calif.) High School. And to be able to just see two in the same family is truly an honor. I thank God to be able to follow in his footsteps because he was a great example for me as a person in high school and college and when he played for New England in the pros.”
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Randall Cunningham was a pioneer of sorts as a double threat, runner and passer. Figure in the punting, he actually was a triple threat. He broke 18 UNLV records, including career marks for passing yards (8,020), touchdown passes (59) and punting average (45.6). He was first-team All-Conference as a punter three times and twice as a quarterback.
The single-season and career punting leader in PCAA history, he led the Rebels to the 1984 conference title and earned MVP honors in their first-ever bowl game appearance, which was a victory in the California Bowl. Cunningham is only the third quarterback in history to pass for at least 2,500 yards in three consecutive seasons, and he finished his career with 142 punts for 6,471 yards.
Growing up, Cunningham idolized his brother and quarterbacks, Joe Namath, Doug Williams and James Harris.
“These people really influenced me,” Cunningham said. “They made me work hard. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to wear the same jersey numbers. I wanted to have the same character, mentality, integrity and morals.”
Cunningham played 16 seasons in the NFL with four different teams (Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens) before retiring. Selected to the Pro Bowl four times, he is still the second leading quarterback rusher of all-time in the NFL. A member of both the Eagles and UNLV Halls of Fame, Cunningham received the NFL Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for community service in 2012.
Cunningham is now head pastor of Las Vegas’ Remnant Ministries, which he founded with his wife Felicity. He is also the head football coach at Silverado High School, where he runs a no-huddle offense. “It’s such a blessing to be able to go back and tell these kids: ‘Your coach is in the College Football Hall of Fame.’”