Film doesn't lie, Cunningham can play
3 hours ago • By Jim Thomas
Rams rookie free agent Benny Cunningham played the game of his life in high school, and Rams coach Jeff Fisher was there to see it.
“Yeah, and they beat my youngest son’s team — I think in the playoffs — so we’re going to cut his signing bonus in half,” Fisher joked. “Honestly, I don’t remember him in the game, but I’m going to go back and look at my hand-held video camera and see.”
After losing to them in a regular-season game, Cunningham’s Goodpasture High team defeated Trent Fisher’s Christ Presbyterian Academy squad in the third round of the playoffs in a battle of Nashville-area schools.
Trent, Fisher’s youngest son, now plays safety at Auburn.
Cunningham, a running back, jokingly offered to refresh his new head coach’s memory of that playoff game.
“I set a (school) record for touchdowns scored in a game and all-purpose yards,” Cunningham said. “I had 315 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. I’ve got a copy of that (game). I’m gonna make sure he watches that. Hopefully, that increases my chances.”
Fisher said the Rams took notice of Cunningham on film before this year’s draft, but it was while watching defensive players on opposing teams.
“He kept popping up every time we were looking at some defensive players and common opponents,” Fisher said.
Cunningham played his college ball at Middle Tennessee State, and the Blue Raiders of the Sun Belt Conference played a pretty good schedule in 2012: Purdue, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Florida International, Memphis, and a 10-victory Arkansas State squad were among their opponents.
Cunningham, 5 feet 10 and 209 pounds, rushed for 217 yards and five touchdowns against Georgia Tech, and gained 230 yards against Florida International.
But he played only half the season before suffering a knee injury (ruptured patella tendon) that ended his year.
Cunningham wasn’t healthy enough to do anything but bench press at Middle Tennessee’s pro day. He was healthy enough on April 22 to hold a private workout.
That was so close to the draft, only two teams were in attendance: the nearby Tennessee Titans and the Rams, who sent running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
Sirmans’ appearance told Cunningham that the Rams’ had genuine interest and helped him decide on St. Louis over the New York Giants and others when it came time to sign as a rookie free agent.
“He’s an outstanding running back,” Fisher said. “He had a great career there at MTSU. ... He’s not ready yet. He’s got a ways to go, but we feel like he’s way ahead of schedule from the surgery he had last year.”
Wide receiver C.J. Akins, an undrafted rookie from Angelo State, suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Saturday’s practice and will undergo surgery early this week.
The injury ends Akins rookie season before it really started.
Akins, who had a private workout with Carolina during the pre-draft process, caught 48 passes for 781 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
His father, Cedric, is a sergeant major in the Army who has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Akins had 128 catches for 2,074 yards and 14 TDs over his career at Angelo State, and NCAA Division II college in San Angelo, Texas.