Friday was a big day for Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham, who was selected as the 25th pick in the 2nd round (57th pick overall) of the NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Vandy fans hate to see the star linebacker go but everyone is thankful for his contributions to Vanderbilt football.
During his Vandy career Zach Cunningham had 295 tackles, 39 1/2 tackles for losses, six sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Cunningham had a wonderful career at Vanderbilt. Coming to Vanderbilt from Pinson, Ala., Cunningham worked his way up the depth chart and eventually found himself as the starting middle linebacker early in the 2015 season. He would hold that starting position for the rest of his career.
Texans select LB Zach Cunningham with the No. 57 overall pick #NFLDraft
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) April 29, 2017
Cunningham is a relentless tackler and runs downhill to the football. He has good ball location awareness and is gifted at being able to run down opponents from behind. His tackle of a Georgia running back late in the fourth quarter in Athens against helped Vanderbilt pull off a shocking upset over the Bulldogs. During that play it appeared as if the Bulldog running back would easily make a first down, allowing the Dogs to continue on a possible game winning drive. However, Cunningham came out of nowhere and ran down the running back, stopping him just short of the first down marker. That was not an isolated big play. Cunningham made many other plays like that during his career.
Perhaps Cunningham's most memorable play was his blocked field goal against Auburn. With the Tigers leading 23-16 with just over a minute remaining in the game, Auburn attempted a field goal. Cunningham had noticed during the game that the Auburn kicker's snap cadence never changed. Cunningham bolted forward as the ball was snapped, vaulted over the line and blocked the field goal attempt. Cunningham is not just a tackler and kick blocker, he also has the ability to drop off into coverage. Cunningham had eight pass breakups during his college career.
Cunningham is a blue collar player who has great on-the-field smarts. He's not a boisterous player and keeps himself pretty low key even though he's giving 110 percent on every play.
It's hard to believe that there were so many players drafted before Cunningham. He's an incredible player who will likely make the Texan organization look very bright for selecting him.