Profile: Former Philadelphia Eagle Randall Cunningham
Coaching players in a whole new way
By Dave Spadaro

Randall Cunningham is laughing. A chuckle, really. He is asked about the “style” he portrays as a preacher in Las Vegas, because style is something that defined him as a 16-year quarterback in the NFL, including 11 memorable seasons (1985-95) with the Eagles when he lived in Cherry Hill.

His style back then in addition to being the “Ultimate Weapon” on the football field – with his rocket arm and legs that could outrun most defenders – was fancy cars, flashy clothes, gold-tipped shoelaces and parties with the Who’s Who in the world of entertainment. (Are you old enough to remember his appearance at Whitney Houston’s birthday party?)

His style now? Cunningham bears down on the answer.

“I try to be all things to all men,” he says from his Remnant Ministries Church in Las Vegas. “I put everything in the hands of God to deliver His message. He uses my humor once in a while but I will say the seriousness of the gospel is really at the forefront. I’ll share stories about my career, but it’s really more of a testimony. I’m not up there saying ‘You can become rich…’ It’s not about prosperity. It’s really just about our souls prospering.”

“At 57 years old, it’s not about hype,” Cunningham continues. “It’s not about trying to pull people out of their seats. Everything has to be about God. It can’t be about me. It’s about giving them the truth.”

When Cunningham talks about who “them” is, he’s including members of the Las Vegas Raiders, for whom he is serving for a second season as team chaplain. After retiring from the NFL in 2001, Cunningham, a born-again Christian, became an ordained minister in 2004 and opened his church. All of these years later, Cunningham is back in the NFL.

Former Raiders running back Napolean Kaufman was the Raiders’ chaplain when the team played in Oakland, and in 2017 when the team announced it was moving to Las Vegas, Kaufman recommended Cunningham take over the team duties and, well, here he is. Last year, Cunningham spent his time building relationships with the players, coaching staff and organization personnel virtually. He hopes Covid restrictions ease soon so he can conduct in-person services.

Until then, Cunningham is delivering the word from his unique perspective.

“Randall has been in this position, one the players can relate to,” Raiders owner Mark Davis says. “He is a special person, and he is someone the entire community knows and loves. It comes from the heart with Randall. He understands what players are going through on a daily basis as professional athletes.”

“The difficulties players face,” Cunningham says, “are the same when I played. I’m someone who can relate to them. The guys understand where I’m coming from. I speak from the heart, and I’m real. Even with the distancing, we bonded. I got a lot of texts from the guys throughout the year and truly felt I helped them as men. I developed an extremely close relationship with [quarterback] Derek Carr. It has definitely been a great experience.”

“I fulfilled my assignment for the first year, but it was different because of the distance,” he says. “I think the guys need more than just a weekly discussion. I want to be there to shake their hands, to give them a hug, to see them at practice and have men’s meetings during the week. Nothing long. Just maybe 30 minutes to talk about what is on anybody’s mind. That’s helpful when you’re a player. You are under so much pressure in every facet of your life. Just having someone to talk to, someone who knows what it’s all about, man, that really can help relieve stress and boost your confidence. This is a team that is involved, that does so much in the community. They use our facility and shoot hoops in our brand-new gym. It’s really cool to see.”

Cunningham wasn’t always this way. He said that early in his career, after the Eagles made him a second-round draft pick from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, he conducted himself in a manner that, as he looks back, was not genuine. He was young, he was in the limelight, and he didn’t quite know how to handle the attention.

Maturity has made him a better man.

“Earlier in my life, I had a façade. I didn’t want people to see who I was because I didn’t know who I was,” says Cunningham. “Now I don’t have to worry about what people think about me. I’m at peace.”

“When I played with the Eagles and I lived in South Jersey, one of my teammates, Cedrick Brown, became a pastor and started teaching a bible study at my house. I was involved in the community at St. John Baptist in Camden. We gave a lot to the church to make sure we fulfilled our requirement with tithes and offerings and things like that. I was very involved in Camden.”

Today’s peace has come at a high price, however. Cunningham and his wife Felicity suffered a tragedy in 2010 when their youngest of 4 children, Christian, died at the age of 2 in a hot tub accident in their Las Vegas backyard. It was a crushing blow that fortified Cunningham’s belief in a higher power. He has remained strong in his faith and with his family, and he celebrated his daughter Vashati’s 6th-place finish in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics in the Woman’s High Jump.

“God has a reason for everything – the pain and the suffering as well as the joy,” Cunningham says.

Now he’s turning some of his attention to the Raiders, hoping to give them the guidance he thinks saved his life.

“These players are men. They are human. I feel like I can make a difference,” Cunningham says. “That is my calling – making a difference every day for people, no matter who they are. This is my way of giving back after so many have given to me throughout my life.”

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

November 2021
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