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Eric A. Cunningham

An Ohio A-AA High School heavyweight wrestling champion and outstanding football player at Akron South High School and at Penn State, Eric Cunningham is remembered as a man who went out of his way to help others throughout his all too brief life. That help extended to many young athletes, including his brother, Alvin, who excelled at Akron Firestone High School in the 1970s. His position coach at South, Chuck Milligan, said that Eric "was the best player I've ever coached and the best person, too." In football he earned All-City and All-District honors, despite playing on a team with a losing record, and caught the eye of Penn State's Joe Paterno who awarded him a full scholarship. Cunningham was a starting offensive guard for the Nittany Lions from 1976 through '78. During his career, the 6-3, 260 pound gridder helped Penn State down Arizona State, 42-30, in the 1977 Fiesta Bowl, was accorded honorable mention All-America honors in 1978, played in the 1978 Sugar Bowl where the number one ranked Nittany Lions lost to number two ranked Alabama, 14-7, and played for the East squad in its, 56-17, win in the annual East-West Shrine Classic. The New York Jets drafted Cunningham in the fourth round in 1979. After playing two seasons with the Jets, he was released. He later worked as a regional field manager for Amoco Oil and as a recreational director in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. On January 22, 1995, Cunningham's life was cut short after a bout with pneumonia at age 37.

Inducted 2000 | Wrestling, Football