Sam “Bam” Cunningham has passed at 71.

Bam, who played for USC (team captain of their title team, Rose Bowl MVP, record-holder and mentor to latter day Trojan players) and the NFL, mostly for the Patriots, was a first-round pick in 1973. You may also remember his QB brother, Randall.

But the news of his passing hit me hard in a way that the record books don’t measure. As kids in ’70s New England, we may have paid Sam Cunningham the ultimate honor any athlete in any sport at any level can achieve.

Now, you have to remember that the Pats of my childhood weren’t very good. Not as cool as the Celtics, that’s for sure.

In backyards, on school playgrounds, on street football games from one end of New England to the other…Bam was the guy you were pretending to be.

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