Cunningham signs with USD

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2001

His mail box probably won’t be much emptier any time soon, but college coaches no longer have a reason to contact Nick Cunningham.

Thursday, February 08, 2001

His mail box probably won’t be much emptier any time soon, but college coaches no longer have a reason to contact Nick Cunningham.

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The three-sport standout has made his decision. He’ll attend the University of South Dakota, where he’ll play football.

Cunningham, an Albert Lea High School senior, signed a letter of intent with the Coyotes Wednesday, the national signing date.

It will mark the end of a long recruiting process for Cunningham, one of the best all-around athletes ever at ALHS. He earned four varsity letters in football and basketball and is on track to earn a fourth in track and field this spring.

Cunningham received his first college letter of interest as a freshman, from the University of Illinois. He estimates he heard from approximately 70 colleges and, when he decided on USD, he hauled out garbage bags full of letters.

Cunningham said he chose South Dakota because he was impressed with the coaching staff, campus and facilities. The clincher, according to Cunningham, is USD is building a new medical school to be finished in 2003. Cunningham wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.

When it came to picking a sport for college, it was not a difficult decision for Cunningham.

&uot;I’ve always wanted to play football in college,&uot; he said. &uot;When the opportunity presented itself, it was great.&uot;

Cunningham, 6 feet 5, 210 pounds, played quarterback and linebacker in high school but said he’ll probably be at tight end or defensive end in college. He’ll likely red-shirt his freshman year.

It’s believed Cunningham will be only the second ALHS football player in recent years to compete at a level above Division III. The other is Colin Bryant at Minnesota State-Mankato.

Cunningham will become the second member of his immediate family to play college football. His father, Steve, who coached the ALHS football team for four years before resigning after this past season, played four years at the University of Minnesota and went on to spend a year with the NFL’s New York Giants.

Nick Cunningham said he receive no pressure at all from his father as to which school he should attend.

&uot;None whatsoever,&uot; he said. &uot;He wouldn’t even tell be where he wanted me to go.&uot;

Steve Cunningham feels good about his son’s choice and believes it will be a good match given the fact the Coyotes made recruiting Cunningham a top priority. The elder Cunningham said it also didn’t hurt that Nick has a grade point average of 3.99.

&uot;It’s a great choice for Nick,&uot; said Steve Cunningham. &uot;In talking to their coach, John Austin, Nick was a high priority player for them. I think it’s a real credit to Nick to get an opportunity to play. He’s worked hard for it, now he’s being rewarded for it. I’m proud of him as a coach, and I’m proud of him as a parent.&uot;