TAMPA – Experience is something that running back Andrew Cunningham has plenty of. After playing on the Cambridge Christian varsity football team since eighth grade, Cunningham had a huge 2015 season on the way to the school’s first-ever state title appearance. Now, the rising junior has the attention of some big time Division-I programs.
The Lancers advanced to the Class 2A state championship in Orlando with a perfect 12-0 record, but they suffered a 61-16 loss to a seasoned University Christian group. Either way, Cunningham and Cambridge Christian made history all season long by recording the school’s first district title, first region title, first state title game and first appearance in the postseason on the way to a 12-1 showing.
Held without a touchdown through the first three playoff games, the 6’0″, 200-pound Cunningham used his power and impressive vision to compile 18 carries for 123 yards (6.8 average) and a touchdown in Cambridge’s huge region final win over Admiral Farragut. The Lancers trailed 25-7 at the break but outscored the BlueJackets 29-7 to pull off the comeback.
Cunningham’s 53-yard touchdown run with just over seven minutes left put Cambridge on top and proved to be the game-winner. He also forced a fumble which led to seven points and had a couple of key tackles on special teams and defense.
“We definitely had a season to remember,” Cunningham said. “Making it to states was definitely a big deal for us. It was a really big deal for me also because we put so much work in just to get to that moment…
“As far as putting big numbers up, I felt very confident this past year. I believed I could get certain things done for my team and every game I just went hard every snap so it just increased my play and stats consistently.”
He certainly played hard on every snap and his high-motor guided him to 1,614 total yards from scrimmage this past season (149 carries for 1,392 yards, 20 receptions for 222 yards) and 32 touchdowns (26 rushing, six receiving).
Because of his stellar season, Cunningham has earned four offers from Louisville, Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee State and Liberty. More offers are going to come in as Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn are just some of the schools that have showed interest in his services.
He has already visited Florida and UCF and says he loves the environment at UF. Two visits coming up for Cunningham this summer are his top two offers in Louisville and Southern Miss.
Cunningham says his biggest strengths right now are his versatility, hard running, catching ability out of the backfield, inside and outside running skills and his one cut and go.
Blocking is what he calls his biggest weakness that he’s working on right now. He wants to be a complete back and at his frame, he could easily get there with dedication and hard work.
After last season’s run which he called rewarding, Cunningham says he says he is always looking to improve the basics.
“I’ve been going hard in the weight room, getting quicker, getting faster and just trying to be an overall athlete. Just working on all aspects of my game.”
Cunningham doubles as a small forward on the Cambridge basketball team. He says playing basketball helps him tremendously with his footwork, staying in shape and conditioned for football season.
“It keeps me competitive so when I get back in football mode I still have the competitive sharpness with me. Overall it has been a great thing for me and has helped me with athleticism, coordination and my potential as an overall athlete.”
One of the players that gives the Lancers football team a chance week in and week out is rising junior quarterback Jaylin Jackson. Cunningham says it is really fun to play alongside Jackson.
“You never know with him. He can just do it all, pass, run and break ankles. He’s a very reliable teammate and I love playing with him. He makes the game that much more fun for me and he makes our offense more flexible.”
Cunningham says eighth-year head coach Bob Dare teaches his team more than just football. Dare had a long and successful stint at Northside Chrisitan before arriving at Cambridge.
“He [Dare] doesn’t just teach us about football. He teaches us how to go about in our lives, to be discipline, to be godly young men chasing what the long term goal really is and he teaches all of that through football. Playing for coach Dare is honestly a blessing.”
At age four, Cunningham started to enjoy the ins and out of the game of football. Over time, he knew he belonged and that this is something he wants to be around for a long time.
“I started in flag, then went on to play tackle football when I was about six years old. My confidence started to build up when I reached the high school level. I knew I could really compete with anybody when I was in eighth grade playing varsity high school football.”
His ultimate goal is to the make to the NFL. When his playing career is all said and done, he wants to be a coach at the high school or collegiate level.
“When I have to hang the cleats and pads up I want to help others achieve their goals and dreams as another ultimate goal.”
That mindset is something that is incredible to have. Helping others and being a role model will get you far in life and on top of his great work ethic, Cunningham is poised to become an all-around awesome human being.
He says his mom is his biggest role model because she knows a lot more than he does in all aspects of life. She motivates him every day to be better not just in school or football.
After piling up 123 carries for 1,159 yards (9.4 average), 18 rushing touchdowns and 17 receptions for 409 yards and two receiving touchdowns from eighth grade to freshman year, Cunningham says he wants to give it his all every second he’s on and off the field.
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates, coaches and mentors. At a school like Cambridge I’m just surrounded by nothing but positive people and I’m thankful for that. They have impacted my life in many different ways.”
Cunningham is well on his way. This kid is a true workhorse. He still has two more years to become an all-around back and that is pretty scary. He plays beyond his years in terms of overall athleticism and football IQ. Expect even more offers to come pouring in as Cunningham continues to mature and shine on an off the turf.
Favorite NFL player? – Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews
Favorite TV shows? – ESPN, Family Guy, The Boondocks
Favorite movies? – Scarface, Paid in Full, Blindside, Maze Runner, Dare Devil, X-Men Series
Playlist before games – Drake “Forever”, Rich Homie Quan “I Swear”, Kodak Black, Lil Herb, Lil Bibby.
Fun Fact – “In my free time, I like to read and watch documentaries on people that have impacted the world throughout history.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “AC”, “Drew”, “25mode”, “BIG AC”