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Local reaction to the death of Santa Barbara High School legend Sam Cunningham

sam cunningham
USC Athletics
Local reaction from the death of former Santa Barbara High School star athlete Sam Cunningham.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Craig Moropoulos had a front row seat to the greatness of Sam Cunningham.

Craig's dad Mike Moropoulos was the defensive coordinator for the Dons when Cunningham was dominating football games at Peabody Stadium in the late 1960's.

"He was my first hero," Moropoulos began. "I was a kid probably 7 years old going to the Dons game and got to sit on the bench. He was my idol and the great thing about Sam Cunningham is, as great a player that he was, he was an even better person without a doubt one of the finest people ever on this earth."

Moropoulos added, "What I respected most about Sam was that he was such a nice person to people but yet he played with a ferocity on the field. I respected that he was physical as all get-up. He played linebacker and running back in high school and of course in college and the pros, he was one of the greatest running backs of all-time."

Cunningham died on Tuesday morning in Inglewood at the age of 71.

No cause of death was released

Earlier this summer the new track at Santa Barbara High School was named after the Cunningham family who had four brothers star for the Dons including Randall, who like Sam, was a standout in the NFL.

"You see that name on the side of the track and it emits a question from kids of, who are the Cunninghams?" said Dons Athletic Director Todd Heil. "We get to tell them who the Cunningham family is and talk about Sam and what he meant to this school and how great of an athlete he was, not just on the football field."

Sam Cunningham was the 1969 State Champion in the shot put before becoming an All-American running back at USC and an NFL All-Pro with the New England Patriots.

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