Zach Cunningham

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Zach Cunningham
No. 41 – Houston Texans
Position:Linebacker
Personal information
Born: (1994-12-12) December 12, 1994 (age 24)
Pinson, Alabama
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Pinson (AL) Valley
College:Vanderbilt
NFL Draft:2017 / Round: 2 / Pick: 57
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2018
Total tackles:197
Sacks:1.5
Forced fumbles:3
Fumble recoveries:0
Interceptions:1
Defensive Touchdowns:1
Passes Deflected:11
Player stats at NFL.com

Zachary Daniel Cunningham (born December 12, 1994) is an American football linebacker for the Houston Texans of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Vanderbilt.

Early years[edit]

Cunningham attended Pinson Valley High School in Birmingham, Alabama. During his high school career, he had 448 tackles, including 194 as a senior.[1] He committed to Vanderbilt University to play college football.[2][3]

College career[edit]

After not playing during his first year at Vanderbilt in 2013, Cunningham played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, recording 67 tackles and 1.5 sacks.[4] As a redshirt sophomore in 2015, he played in all 12 games with nine starts. He finished the year with 103 tackles and 4.5 sacks and was named first team All-SEC.[5][6][7]

In December 2016, Cunningham became the first unanimous All-American in Vanderbilt history, when he was named first team defensive All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.[8]

Cunningham was the seventh Commodore to earn the consensus All-American honor for Vanderbilt. The last consensus All-American for Vanderbilt was punter Ricky Anderson in 1984.[9]

Cunningham was named first team All-American by over a dozen national foundations and publications including CBS Sports, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Phil Steele and SBNation. Cunningham is the first Vanderbilt Commodore to be named first-team All-American by ESPN.[10]

Cunningham was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's top overall linebacker, Cunningham was also recognized as the SEC's Most Valuable Lineman/Linebacker by the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club on Tuesday December 13, 2016 one day after his birthday.[11]

Cunningham had an SEC-best 119 total tackles, which ranked 11th overall nationally. He also registered 16.5 tackles for loss, finishing second in the SEC and 22nd nationally, along with four fumble recoveries, which tied for second nationally, just one behind the leader. Cunningham played his best games against SEC opponents, as he posted 89 total tackles, 51 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss against SEC foes. He also had some of the best individual plays in those games, including a big fourth down tackle to end Georgia's game ending drive in the Commodores' win in Athens. Cunningham made another huge, nationally-recognized play in the fourth quarter of Vanderbilt's game against Auburn, when he perfectly timed a leap over Auburn's left guard as the ball was snapped, allowing him to arrive in the backfield at the same time as the ball, which Cunningham then blocked, to preserve Vanderbilt's chances to win, with less than 2:00 minutes remaining in the contest. to block a field goal. A late interception by Auburn preserved the Tigers' victory, but Cunningham's leap was named Top Ten Play of the Day by ESPN.

Cunningham also made big plays against Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee helping the Commodores to SEC wins against UGA, Ole Miss and UT, leading them to a 6-6 season record, and securing Vanderbilt's first postseason bowl game since 2013.[12][13]

Professional career[edit]

Cunningham received an invitation to the NFL Combine and completed all of the combine and positional drills. He also participated in Vanderbilt's Pro Day and opted to only run positional drills for representatives and scouts in attendance. He attended private workouts with three NFL teams: the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.[14]

External video
Zach Cunningham's NFL Combine Workout
Zach Cunningham runs the 40-yard dash

At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Cunningham was projected to be a first or second round pick by NFL draft experts and scouts. He was ranked the third best linebacker prospect in the draft by Sports Illustrated, the third best outside linebacker by NFL analyst Bucky Brooks, the fourth best outside linebacker by NFLDraftScout.com, the fourth best linebacker by NFL analyst Mike Mayock, and was ranked the fifth best linebacker by ESPN.[15][16][17][18]

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 3 12 in
(1.92 m)
234 lb
(106 kg)
34 38 in
(0.87 m)
9 14 in
(0.23 m)
4.67 s 1.58 s 2.68 s 4.29 s 7.03 s 35 in
(0.89 m)
10 ft 4 in
(3.15 m)
15 reps
All values from NFL Combine[19][20]

2017[edit]

The Houston Texans selected Cunningham in the second round (57th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.[21]

External video
Texans draft Cunningham 57th overall
NFL Draft Profile: Zach Cunningham

On May 12, 2017, the Houston Texans signed Cunningham to a four-year, $4.47 million contract that includes $2.06 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $1.39 million.[22]

Cunningham competed with Dylan Cole and Sio Moore for the starting left inside linebacker job with original starter Brian Cushing suspended for the first ten games of the season. Head coach Bill O'Brien named Cunningham the starter to begin the regular season.[23]

He made his professional regular season debut during the Houston Texans' season-opening 29–7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and finished the game with five combined tackle and a pass deflection. The following week, Cunningham earned his first career start and recorded six combined tackles as the Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 13–9. On October 8, 2017, he collected nine combined tackles and forced the first fumble of his career during a 42–34 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.[24] In Week 13, Cunningham recorded four combined tackles and made his first career sack on Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota in the Texans' 24–13 loss at the Tennessee Titans. In Week 17, he collected a season-high 12 combined tackles (four solo) during a 22–13 loss at the Indianapolis Colts. He finished his rookie season in 2017 with 90 combined tackles (45 solo), six pass deflections, and 1.5 sacks in 16 games and 13 starts.[25]

2018[edit]

Cunningham entered training camp slated as a starting inside linebacker after Brian Cushing officially announced his retirement. Head coach Bill O'Brien named Cunningham and Whitney Mercilus the starting outside linebackers, along with middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pinson Valley's Zach Cunningham to visit Vanderbilt and Tennessee over the next few days".
  2. ^ "Pinson Valley's Zach Cunningham signs up to play for Vanderbilt (Signing Day profile)".
  3. ^ "Pinson Valley linebacker Zach Cunningham chooses Vanderbilt". February 6, 2013.
  4. ^ "Top NFL Draft Prospects: Sleeper no longer, Vandy's Zach Cunningham ready to star".
  5. ^ "Meet Zach Cunningham, the most underrated player in the SEC". July 11, 2016.
  6. ^ "Underrated, low-key Cunningham is Commodores' anchor". July 13, 2016.
  7. ^ "Linebackers Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis go from unknown to All-SEC".
  8. ^ "Vanderbilt Official Athletic Site - Vanderbilt University".
  9. ^ http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2016/12/sec_consensus_all-americans_by_1.html
  10. ^ "Zach Cunningham becomes Vandy's first unanimous All-American".
  11. ^ Halyburton, Kate Pearson (December 9, 2016). "Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham True Butkus Award Winner".
  12. ^ http://vanderbilt.247sports.com/Article/Zach-Cunningham-becomes-Vanderbilts-first-unanimous-All-American-49802922
  13. ^ "How Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham timed that blocked field goal against Auburn".
  14. ^ "Walter Football: Prospect visits". walterfootball.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  15. ^ Chris Burke (April 24, 2017). "2017 NFL Draft Rankings: Top Prospects by Position". si.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  16. ^ Jeff Legwold (April 22, 2017). "Ranking the 2017 Draft's Top 100 Prospects". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  17. ^ Mike Mayock (April 12, 2017). "Mike Mayock's 2017 NFL Draft position rankings 3.0". NFL.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  18. ^ Bucky Brooks (April 25, 2017). "Bucky Brooks' 2017 NFL Draft position rankings 3.0". NFL.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  19. ^ "NFL Draft Profile: Zach Cunningham". NFL.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  20. ^ "*Zach Cunningham, DS #4 OLB,Vanderbilt". nfldraftscout.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  21. ^ Dougherty, Drew (April 28, 2017). "Texans take Vanderbilt ILB Zach Cunningham in Rd. 2". HoustonTexans.com.
  22. ^ "Spotrac.com: Zach Cunningham contract". spotrac.com. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  23. ^ "Ourlads.com: Houston Texan's depth chart: 10/01/2017". ourlads.com. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  24. ^ "NFL Player Profile: Zach Cunningham". NFL.com. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  25. ^ "NFL Player stats: Zach Cunningham (career)". NFL.com. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  26. ^ "Ourlads.com: Houston Texans Depth Chart: 09/01/2018". Ourlads.com. Retrieved September 27, 2018.

External links[edit]