Former Patriots running back Sam 'Bam' Cunningham adresses the media during his conference call following the announcement that he will be the 2010 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame.
SC: I was really surprised because the person who told me that I was up for nomination was my daughter who is 23 years old, but when she came and told me, she sounded like she was 12 years old. It was pretty exciting because I haven't gotten a reaction like that out of her in quite a while.
It was never really about what I did, but it was much more about what we did as a team. I had the opportunity to play for the Patriots in 1973. Coach (Chuck) Fairbanks, Bucko Kilroy and Billy Sullivan all gave us an opportunity to come and be a part of something special. I didn't really know how special it was until we got rolling. What we did and what I did was just come to work and do the best that I can do and be a part of something and be rewarded for it. (It's special) to be nominated number one by the panel and then get rewarded because of the fans and what they saw and enjoyed is really special. Two other people were on the nomination list, Houston Antwine and Jon Morris both deserve this as much as I do or maybe even more so, because they went before me and they set the foundation for us. I've voted for them a couple times but I voted for myself more. I've had a chance to play with Houston and I learned a lot from him just by watching how he carried himself and how he did his everyday work. He gave me a picture of the players and teammates on the team. I'm just ecstatic about being part of the Patriots' Hall of Fame because there are so many great players, five or six of whom I played with, so it's a chance to be a part of something very special.
Q: Does it mean a little bit more that it was the fans who selected you for this honor?
SC: I think it does a lot because...it wasn't so much about what I was doing, but more about what the fans thought and what they enjoyed. I knew that if the team was good enough, we could make something wonderful for the fans. In my mind we have some of the greatest fans in the world because they turned out when it was 100 degree weather or minus whatever degree weather. Whether we were winning or losing, they came and they supported us and kept us going. To be remembered by them is wonderful.
Q: How has the fullback position evolved since your time?
SC: (In terms of the position), maybe the mindset of the coaches has. We were more of a 'dominate you at the line of scrimmage' type. We tried to outrun and be more athletic than (the other team). I am kind of a weird fullback because when I came out of USC, I was more of a blocking fullback but I always had the ability to run and catch the ball. I enjoyed blocking and I guess that is kind of what set me apart from everybody else. We played against Oklahoma while I was at USC and Coach Fairbanks was the coach there at the time, and I guess he remembered that I could also run the ball even though I blocked so maybe that had something to do with him drafting me when he got that job. But with the way that fullbacks are now, I would probably be a tight end or something because I was so tall and big. (Today) a lot of them are about six-foot-one. I believe that a lot of fullbacks that play now have the ability to do the same thing that we did back in the day if those offenses were the norm, but everyone has gotten so big and so strong that you have to change the way you block at the point of attack and we were smaller so we could actually run and we were more athletic from side to side so for that reason it has changed. If you are a good athlete and a good fullback then you can play.
Q: You were recognized for your great accomplishments at USC. What is it like to now be honored for your pro career?
SC: Coming from California and going to the east coast, Boston and the New England area was different because it was so far away from home and I didn't really have any friends at times so I didn't know how I was going to adjust, but there were people that looked out for me and watched over me and took care of me and gave me the opportunity to concentrate on being the best that I can be and help the team. Coach Fairbanks laid out the game plan for what he wanted to do and what he wanted to accomplish. He started bringing in players and teammates of ours and it made it very easy to work the game plan because we all had a great understanding of winning and trying to win championships. To be remembered by the fans is wonderful but I'm just happy to come and be a part of something. When you start, you don't worry about what is going to happen at the end and I've been blessed to have a lot of good things happen to me lately, this being one of them. All the things are very special because they show how you played well and with great people and great coaches and it's wonderful to keep the legacy alive for what we were at that time.
Q: Has there been a healing process since not playing for the Patriots to a point where you can feel good about coming back here?
SC: It isn't so much a healing process. The last two years I played, my mother and father both passed away and they were motivation to play and be special at what I did and when they passed, it made it tough to travel three thousand miles to go to work; not that I wouldn't have done it, but for me, I went home and tried to take care of my brothers. For many years, my mind was not on the Patriots because I was busy taking care of them and my immediate family. To get the opportunity to come back last September and see how things have changed and have a chance to meet Mr. Kraft and his wife Myra and reacquaint with some of my old teammates was great. So I'm not sure if the healing process is the right word, but it's just a passage of time that I think every player has to go through and sometimes for that to get better is when you go back and I got that opportunity to come back and see what the fans felt for me and re-live the good times when we tried to make something really successful.
Q: What are your impressions on how things are different with the Patriots under Robert Kraft?
SC: (Mr. Kraft) understands from a fan's perspective of what he would like and because he and his family understand that, they made it very special for the fans and the New England area to be proud of the team that they are; not that they weren't proud before, but he has the wherewithal to make it a destination, make it something special, bring about a culture of winning championships. If you have anything in place to do that, it's a lot easier to go about that business. Back in the day it was a good job, because I would play football in a parking lot for nothing only because that's what I enjoy and to get the opportunity to be a professional football player because I had never dreamed about going pro until maybe my junior year at USC when I saw my teammates go, but I was always fortunate to be a part of something that was really special. To be named for the 50th anniversary team and to be nominated and picked to go into the Patriots Hall of Fame is wonderful and special, because at the end of the day, all those things were not on my mind when I started playing football. I started playing because I enjoyed it and I loved it and it was a way to be part of something special and I had a chance to play with enough people that were special and will hopefully be honored one day.
Q: What was the night at Mr. Kraft's house [with the 50th anniversary team] like?
SC: The night was special because any time you go to an amazing house like that it's special. You open the doors and there were four or five generations of Patriots players who all had stories and let us know that we are all part of the same family. I got a chance to meet some of the older players and some of the younger ones who I have watched and just marveled at how they have gone about their business with what they have done. After having done that, I have a better appreciation of what Mr. Kraft and his family have done to turn the culture into a championship culture. I didn't lose many games in high school, I didn't lose many games in college and I really didn't lose that many while in New England, but we never got to the promised land of where we wanted to go, which was the Super Bowl. We were always striving to do that and that was the mindset. That night at the Krafts' house was special because it gave a multitude of players an opportunity to be with one another and all of us think pretty much the same about doing what we did.