A Time To Heal
A fresh look at Randall
Cuningham may make you reconsider what you thought you knew about him
By Roxanne Robbins
After a grueling 11 seasons in the National Football League, quarterback
Randall Cunningham did not
anticipate retiring from retirement. The 34-year-old was residing
in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife Felicity and their newborn son, Randall
During the 1996 season, Cunningham worked as a studio analyst for
TNT football broadcasts. He was also investing in a new profession, his
own marble, tile, and granite company. He was caught by surprise when he
felt prompted to return to a career from which he thought he permanently
The consideration to play again stemmed from unlikely responses he
received from the public. After leaving the Philadelphia Eagles franchise
at the end of the 1995 season, Cunningham was asked almost daily by friends
and strangers when he would play again. At first he shrugged off their
question, reiterating that he had retired. But when the inquiries failed
to cease, he began to wonder himself.
I had made my announcement to retire, although I hadnt filed my
papers yet, Cunningham says.
When I left the game, I was expecting people to say, Congratulations
on 11 years in the NFL, but it was more often, When are you coming back?
I heard it so much I began to think, If God is talking to me through people,
Im going to pray about it.
So I got down [on my knees] and I said, Lord, if its Your will
that I should go back and play football, Im willing to follow that. I
said, You know my heart better than I know myself. If its Your will,
have teams call me up, and Ill take that as a sign that You want me to
get back into football.
Within 2 or 3 days, teams started calling me. For someone whos retired,
that can only be a sign from
Molding his body back into NFL condition was no easy task. A year
had elapsed since Cunningham had worked out, and his muscles had easily
adapted to his more relaxed lifestyle. He paid the price, but after returning
to form, on April 11, 1997, Cunningham agreed to contract terms with the
Cunningham brought a wealth of experience and accolades to the Vikings
quarterback stable. The
64", 205-pound athlete had rushed for more yards (4,384) than any
other quarterback in NFL history. In
fact, going into the 1997 season, he was 91st on the all-time list
of NFL rushing leadersahead of running backs such as Jim Otis, Lorenzo
White, Mercury Morris, and Matt Snell. As a starter in the NFL he compiled
a regular-season record of 63-43-1 (.593). He is second in Eagles history
in career completions (1,874), passing yards (22,877), and touchdown passes
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas graduate and two-time All American
came to the Vikings dressed in a new attitude different from the one he
wore when he first signed with the Eagles as their second-round-draft pick
in 1985. A transformation had taken place in Cunninghams life, leading
to a new motivation.
My focus is different now, Randall explains. My last year of playing
in Philadelphia, I had so much anger inside for sitting the bench or for
just not being treated the way I thought I should be treated.
Being the backup in Philadelphia was difficult, but God allowed me
to be patient and to persevere
through it. I guess no one wants to be a benchwarmer, but theres
a time and a place. The Bible says theres a time to mourn, a time to laugh,
a time to weep, a time to cry theres times for everything basically.
Theres a time to tear down and theres a time to build up. That was my
Each time I went to Bible study that year, it was like the Bible
study was directed toward me, especially when it talked about submitting
to the governing authorities. I learned theres no authority except that
which God has instituted. So I had to follow the people God had put in
charge. By doing that, God blessed me to end my career on a note where
I could walk out and be thankful and satisfied for what He had done in
Cunningham remembers swallowing his pride when he lost his starting
position in Philadelphia. He reflects on that period as a time when he
was torn down so God could rebuild him as a person, not just a football
player. He claims that through being humbled he was able to see God at
work in his life.
Through personal time studying the Bible and through the encouragement
of Christian teammates, friends, and pastorspeople such as Cedric Brown,
Reggie White, and Keith ByarsCunningham recognized a need to lay his frustrations
down and let God carry them. Now his desire is to stand strong in his faith
and be a witness that God can change lives.
The thing thats caused me to stand up for Christ is reading in
the Bible that were to be bold for
Christ, Cunningham says. I guess Im just so thankful that God
is real, as Ive seen through my life
experiences, through prayer, through other peoples lives, and through
miracles that have happened. God
has humbled me and allowed me to see even more of him each day.
Im going back as a Christian playing
football for God.
In Minnesota, Cunningham joins an average of 21 teammates for weekly
Bible studies and prayer. He
is active in a church and is being mentored by Pastor Keith Johnson.
Cunningham also spends time with
Athletes in Action staff member and Vikings chaplain Tom Lamphere.
In addition to having men pour
into his life, Cunningham poured into the lives of his teammates
by joining wide receiver Cris Carter in
leading Bible studies during the Vikings training camp.
If Im going to have faith, I better have faith in God and in the
Bible, Cunningham concludes. If Im going to be an athlete or do anything
in my life, regardless of the situation, I need to have faith in Christ
because Hes the one whos going to pull me through the tough times. And
when Im going
through the good times Im going to give Him the glory, because
thats what Ive learned from reading
the Word. Its vital that I have Jesus Christ in my life, because
there are not going to be great times all
the time. Youre going to go through ups and downs, and if you have
nowhere to reach then you cant get help.
I definitely see growth in what Gods doing with my life. Cunningham
says. My goal is to let my
light for Jesus Christ shine on the football field. Im content
with what my job is. Im a backup to one of
the best quarterbacks in the league. I dont have a problem with
that. But I think if I hadnt gone through
this, I probably wouldnt be able to handle it the way that I do.
Roxanne Robbins lives in Cincinnati, where she works for Athletes
in Action.Reprinted by
permission, Sports Spectrum