Joe Namath Helped Inspire Randall Cunningham to Play Quarterback
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Naturally, athletes tend to look up to the players that came before them.
For former UNLV quarterback Randall Cunningham, one of those players was Joe Namath.
Not long after he was selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Friday, Cunningham mentioned the former Alabama signal caller as a quarterback who inspired him to play the position himself.
“You know, I liked Joe Namath back in the day,” said Cunningham, who also named former Grambling State and black quarterbacks Doug Williams and James Harris. “I got the same facemask when I was playing in college.”
Cunningham even wore No. 12 at UNLV – and later with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL – in part because Namath – as well as Williams and Harris – wore the number during their college (and NFL) careers.
“These people really influenced me, made me work hard,” Cunningham said. “I wanted to be like them. I wanted to wear the same jersey numbers. Wanted to have the same character, mentality, integrity and morals. So I would say there was a group of them.”
Cunningham, who went onto have a lengthy NFL career after college, broke 18 school records during his three-year run as UNLV’s starting quarterback, including the career passing yards (8,020) and passing touchdowns (59) records.
Namath played four seasons at Alabama, including his first, in 1961, on the freshmen team when the NCAA still barred them from the varsity squad. He guided the Crimson Tide to a national championship during his senior year in 1964 – nearly two decades before Cunningham began his collegiate career.
Cunningham was one of 14 players named for induction during the live announcement broadcasted on ESPNU and one of two present, along with former Harvard tight end Pat McInally. Two coaches were also inducted into the 2016 Hall of Fame class.
Because a player must have been named a first-team All-American by a major selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA to be eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame, Cunningham officially goes into the Hall of Fame as a punter rather than as a quarterback. Cunningham was a first-team All-American punter in 1983, but only an honorable mention All-American as a quarterback.
Former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey was one of 76 players and the lone Crimson Tide representative on this year’s ballot, but he was not among those selected.
2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class:
Marlin Briscoe, Nebraska QB
Derrick Brooks, Florida State LB
Tom Cousineau, Ohio State LB
Randall Cunningham, UNLV QB
Troy Davis, Iowa State RB
William Fuller, North Carolina DT
Bert Jones, LSU QB
Tim Krumrie, Wisconsin DT
Pat McInally, Harvard TE
Herb Orvis, Colorado DE
Bill Royce, Ashland (Ohio) LB
Mike Utley, Washington State OG
Scott Woerner, Georgia DB
Rod Woodson, Purdue DB
Bill Bowes, New Hampshire
Frank Girardi, Lycoming (Pa.)