Randy Cross, the UCLA All-American offensive lineman out of Crespi High, and Sam “Bam” Cunningham, the bruising USC fullback who is credited with helping integrate the game in the South, were among the 14 players elected to the College Football Hall of Fame today.
Cross, now an analyst for CBS on the NFL and college football, played on the 1976 Rose Bowl championship Bruins team as a guard, starting 28 of his 34 career games, including the final 23. He started a center but was moved to right guard as a junior and went between center and guard as a senior.
A second-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1976, he played 13 years, made three Pro Bowls and played on three Super Bowl teams.
“I’m extremely proud and humbled to be selected to be a part of such a special College Football Hall of Fame class,” Cross, who lives near Atlanta, said in a statement through CBS. “My teammates at UCLA share in this honor and without their help and influences this would not be possible. To them I say thank you.
“My late father, Dennis Cross, raised me to be a Bruin and my mother Rita was manager at Dykstra and Sproul residence halls on campus, so UCLA has been a part of life since I can remember. Joining some of the legendary Bruins in the College Football Hall of Fame is very much a young boy growing up in Tarzana dream come true.
“Coaches from UCLA shaped me as a young man, taught me lessons on and off the field and helped in life well after I left Westwood. I owe those men, Steve Butler, Moe Freedman, Terry Donahue, Pepper Rodgers, Dick Vermeil and Bobb McKittrick more than I can ever repay.”
Cunningham, out of Santa Barbara, was an All-American in 1972 when the Trojans won the national title. He scored four touchdowns in the 1973 Rose Bowl — a modern-day record — and was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1992
On Sept. 12, 1970, he ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns against an all-white University of Alabama team in Birmingham as USC beat the Tide 42-21. Jerry Claiborne, a Bear Bryant assistant, said: “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.” Wilbur Jackson, the first African-American offered a scholarship at Alabama, watched the game from the stands, ineligible to play as a freshman due to NCAA rules at the time.
Cunningham co-authored a book on the game, “Turning Of The Tide: How One Game Changed The South,” that is currently in development for a movie.
Cunningham went on to play for the New England Patriots, rushing for more than 5,400 yards and 49 touchdowns. He’s the older brother of former UNLV and NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Cross and Cunningham will be joined in the College Hall of Fame for a July induction with the late Pat Tillman (Arizona State), Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard (Michigan), Dennis Byrd (North Carolina State), Ronnie Caveness (Arkansas), Ray Childress (Texas A&M), Mark Herrmann (Purdue), Clarkston Hines (Duke), Chet Moeller (Navy), Jerry Stovall (LSU) and Alfred Williams (Colorado). The newly elected Hall of Fame coaches are Barry Alvarez and Gene Stallings.