Sam "Bam" Cunningham, leading rusher in Patriots history, passes away


Sam "Bam" Cunningham, who remains the leading rusher in New England Patriots history nearly 40 years after his retirement, has passed away at age 71.

Cunningham, who spent his entire nine-year career with the Patriots (1973-82), rushed for 5,453 yards and 43 touchdowns with New England, making one Pro Bowl in 1978 when he rushed for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. A season earlier, he gained a career-high 1,015 yards on the ground, the only time he surpassed the 1,000-yard marker.

In addition to leading the team in rushing yards all these years later, he remains second in franchise history in rushing touchdowns behind only Jim Nance (45). He's fifth in total touchdowns in team history with 49, trailing Rob Gronkowski, Stanley Morgan, Ben Coates and Randy Moss.

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The Patriots originally drafted Cunningham 11th overall out of USC in 1973, seven picks after they selected John Hannah. Cunningham was elected into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001 and both the Patriots and College Football Hall of Fames in 2010.

Cunningham's younger brother, Randall, made four Pro Bowls over a 16-year career with four NFL teams from 1985-2001.