WINNEBAGO, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — On Friday night’s in the fall, the Winnebago Indians often put the ball in the hands of senior Michael Cunningham — as well as on his foot.
“I started in 3rd grade out in Win-Du-Pec,” said Cunningham. “In Winnebago we didn’t have big numbers when I was in middle school so I did always play everywhere, just because I was a faster guy.”
Cunningham is the definition of a do-it-all player. He’s the Big Northern Conference’s leading rusher and rushing touchdown leader, as well as the Indian’s starting cornerback, kicker, kick returner, and punter.
“I would say when we’re out there playing, it’s like you want to get this first down, or you want to get this stop, but once you get this stop, you’ve got to go right back on offense, and then you want to kick that field goal, but you want to get that first down, and you want to get that touchdown, but you want to get the field goal, so it’s always different,” said Cunningham.
While Cunningham just takes it one play at a time, his real passion is kicking, and for years, from morning until night, he’s practiced in his backyard.
“I started kicking when I was in second grade. My dad put a Field Goal post up in the backyard. I saw the guys on Sunday do it. Thought I could do it.”
“I mean I like playing all the positions, you can help your team in every way. But sometimes I wish I could just focus in on one and see how I could accel at that,” said Cunningham. “I would focus on kicking because when I’m in college I’m going to go just to be a kicker and I’m excited to see how that goes once I can just focus on that one thing.”
“I’ve always told him, ‘right now you’re a starting tailback, you’re a starting corner, you’re a kicker. When you’re in college you’re not going to be those things. You’re going to be a kicker,'” said Winnebago’s head coach Mark Helm. “I think he could get a lot better, not that he’s not already really good, but I think he can get a lot better when that’s his sole focus.”
Having so much responsibility and knowing what goes into every aspect of the game, I asked Michael if he ever considered a future in coaching.
“Yes and no,” said Cunningham. “I coached the powder puff game and I am way too intense, so I’m not sure if I could be a coach or not, but I like helping out the younger kids, teaching them, so it would definitely be something I would like to do, but I’d have to contain myself.”
Even though Cunningham can do it all for the Indians, he is humble about his talents.
“No, one person cannot win the game, I couldn’t do it without the line, the quarterback, the receivers, the D-Line, the linebackers, nobody else,” Cunningham said.”
It’s those same traits that make him a leader. Not overly outspoken, but one who leads by example.
“I could count on one hand the number of times he’s missed the weight room,” said Helm. “I mean he built himself into what he is and he did that through hard work, and being humble, and just trying to find a way to get better every day.”