These days, the word “dawg” is thrown around in a lot of descriptions of football players but Penn State football’s latest commit doesn’t seem himself as a “dawg.”
“I would say, ‘A wolf’ because I like to eat dogs,” the 6-foot-6, 275-pounder told Nittany Sports Now the night before he announced his commitment. “So when I step on the field, regardless of the condition I’m in, whatever, I’m going to give it 100 percent of what I have. So I’m going to leave it all out on the field.”
Cunningham announced his commitment to Penn State July 22.
He almost committed more than a month before.
Cunningham, a four-star DL from Florida’s Miami Central High School, took his official visit to Penn State the weekend of June 16.
It’s not unusual for players to commit while on their OV, and Cunningham told Nittany Sports Now he came close to doing that. After all, Penn State was the only official visit he took this summer. But Cunningham took some time to talk it over with his family and make sure that his excitement for Penn State was genuine and not just a product of an impressive official visit presentation.
“You have so many of these kids that have gone on visits,” Cunningham told NSN the night before his commitment, “and they’ll be really high on a school for, let’s say, a week or a weekend, whatever it is, and then it will drop off because it was just hype from the visit.”
For Cunningham— who has 62 offers according to 247Sports— there a lot of schools that “suck up” to recruits and tell them everything they want to hear in an effort to get their commitment, regardless of it’s entirely honest or not.
Cunningham feels Penn State’s coaching staff is set apart by its honesty.
“I’ve said this so many times, just the people are so genuine, and it’s such a family atmosphere there,” he said. “Even though they’re going to coach you and they’re going to be real hard on you, they’re going to love you hard, too. I feel like that’s what you really need to grow as a person and as an athlete.”
Cunningham loves head coach James Franklin, who he’s been talking with since his sophomore year.
“He’s a great person,” Cunningham said. “He’s very straightforward. He’s one of those people where he’ll tell you less, and then he’ll overdeliver instead of promising the world and underdelivering. He’s definitely just a straightforward coach, a straightforward person and, honestly, that transparency is very important to me. So I really appreciate that from Coach Franklin.”
But a lesser-known member of Penn State’s staff also played a big part in convincing Cunningham to commit: Director of Player Personnel Kenny Sanders.
“He’s been amazing,” Cunningham said “He’s been on me since my freshman year. All of those guys they’ve stayed consistent. Not all schools are like that, so that’s something you have to come to appreciate.”
Another thing that drew Cunningham to Penn State was that the program sees him a complete defensive lineman who could play on either the inside or outside.
“When talking to the coaches and talking to everybody on the coaching staff, they look at T.A. Cunningham; they don’t look at a defensive tackle or a defensive end,” he said. “They see a defensive lineman. And, I feel like, especially with the direction the game’s heading towards, a lot of these players, everyone’s starting to kind of become some type of hybrid. You kind of have to be able to do multiple things on the field in order to be successful. So, I feel like, just having that athletic skillset to where I’m physical enough to play inside and athletic enough to make a twist outside or start outside and twist inside, I feel like those traits really make me different.”
Miami Central will be the fourth high school Cunningham has played with in four years.
Some people who follow recruiting have criticized this about Cunningham. This season, he’ll be playing at Miami Central after a year at California’s Los Alamitos High School.
Cunningham feels this criticism has been unfair and wanted to set the record straight.
“I feel like there’s a common misconception of me and sometimes even my character,” he said. “The amount of schools I’ve been to comes into question. I feel like I’m really misunderstood in that sense because I feel like a lot of people assume that any of the moves that I made were like money-based moves or anything like that. I moved from California to Florida, a state where NIL’s not legal.
“Kind of like to dispel what they were saying about the California move. You can’t really say that now because now I’m at Miami Central.”
Cunningham said he made the move to Miami Central due to a job change with his guardians.
Cunningham gets excited when he thinks of Andrews.
“I can just envision us playing on that line together,” Cunningham said.
As of now, Cunningham plans on enrolling early at Penn State.
So what’s Cunningham looking forward to the most about playing college football?
“Everything,” he said. “Everybody’s all into the flashy stuff, the lights and all that. I mean, the best memories of my life are going to be created under those lights and surrounded by those fans.”
“But I honestly feel like the best memories and stuff that I’m going to create are really just the ones with my teammates. Day in, day out. The stuff that nobody sees on TV, I feel like those are going to end up becoming the best moments of my life.”