Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cunningham: "This is my Hall of Fame"

Randall Cunningham, the former quarterback that paved the way for the Donovan McNabbs and Michael Vicks of the NFL, and Al Wistert, who paved the way for tailback Steve Van Buren as the Eagles won their first two championships in 1948 and 1949, are being inducted into the team's Ring of Honor today.

Cunningham: "This is my Hall of Fame"

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Randall Cunningham, the former quarterback that paved the way for the Donovan McNabbs and Michael Vicks of the NFL, and Al Wistert, who paved the way for tailback Steve Van Buren as the Eagles won their first two championships in 1948 and 1949, are being inducted into the team's Ring of Honor today.

The two inductees, along with owner Jeffrey Lurie, met with the media before the Eagles-Chiefs game. The 89-year-old Wistert had to be helped to the podium by Lurie and team spokesman Derek Boyko. Lurie and Cunningham embraced for an uncomfortable-looking hug. Nevertheless, Lurie gave his own personal pitch for both former Eagles to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Cunningham "revolutionized the game," Lurie said of the explosive and acrobatic quarterback, who was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 1985 draft.

Said Cunningham, who was the NFL's player of the year in 1988 and 1990: "This is my Hall of Fame. I'm satisfied."

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Coincidentally, Cunningham is being honored on the day of Vick's return to the NFL. McNabb is inactive for the game with a fractured rib. Both present-day quarterbacks have expressed gratitude to Cunningham in the past for his part in dispelling the idea that African Americans couldn't play the position.

"I think that myth is over now," said the 46-year-old Cunningham, who is currently the pastor of a church in Las Vegas. "African American quarterbacks can do it just as well as anybody else."

Cunningham said that he attended Eagles practice yesterday and that he sat down with both players. Vick is expected to be used in the Eagles' Wildcat formation -- or "Spread Eagle," as they've been calling it -- with Kevin Kolb starting. Cunningham was in many ways the original Wildcat.

"Buddy [Ryan] used to tell me to just go out and make 5-7 big plays," Cunningham said. "That was the Wildcat back then. We just didn't have a catchy name for it."

Cunningham looked slim and healthy -- maybe good enough to make a comeback? "I'm too old," he said. "I have gray in my eyebrows."

Wistert was an eight-time All-Pro tackle in nine seasons of play and was the first player to have his jersey retired by the Eagles. "A no-brainer," Lurie said of Wistert's credentials for the Hall of Fame.

"Naturally, when you get to be near 90 years of age, any fuss they make over you is easy to handle," said Wistert, who flew from his home in Oregon to Philadelphia.

Both players will be honored at halftime.

 

Inquirer Staff Writer
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