I just want to start this by saying thank you to Malik Cunningham.
When I started covering Louisville sports for Cardinal Sports Zone, I was attending a football practice and a member of Bobby Petrino’s staff said to myself and a few others assembled that they had just received a verbal commitment from a kid that would make us forget all about Lamar.
While I thought that was a very bold an unrealistic statement, I also knew that from that moment it didn’t matter what this kid did on the field, it wouldn’t be enough as expectations were already set to an unfair level.
And because of Malik’s superior ability to run the ball, he would also unfairly be compared to Lamar by the fan base.
While comparisons to the greatest college football player of all time are flattering, it also puts an added pressure on a young athlete to live up to those expectations.
But as quarterbacks know, you get most of the credit when the team wins and you get most of the blame when the team loses. Fair or unfair, that’s the reality of the position. And when the team isn’t playing well, the backup QB is the most popular guy on the team – until he’s not the back up anymore.
Malik’s career at Louisville had some really good times and some bad times. But despite what anyone says, you can’t debate his stats. Malik will leave Louisville holding the all-time touchdowns record (120). Cunningham threw for 9,664 passing yards (ranks 4th in school history), 70 passing touchdowns while rushing for 3,184 yards (ranks 3rd in school history) and 50 touchdowns (all stats include bowl games).
Another thing that you can’t question is his loyalty. In an age where everyone is looking for a new team on a yearly basis, Malik stayed true to his commitment to Louisville. I wouldn’t have blamed him in the least if he transferred out after Petrino quit on the team. Or after they hired Satterfield, whose system wasn’t really designed for an athletic dual threat quarterback.
Where will Malik go from here? He is entering the NFL draft. It is my opinion that he will end up signing with a team as an undrafted free agent. Once a NFL team works on increasing his size, strengthens his arm and gets him out of the habit of locking in on one receiver, he will be a capable back up in the league. He is a superior athlete that has great pocket awareness, creativity and has shown great toughness. He also has shown ability to anticipate throws very well as receivers break out of routes. He has enough skills to be in the league if he finds the right situation. His style of play is becoming more and more popular with NFL teams thus increasing his odds of being signed by a team.
No matter where Malik ends up, I know Cardinal fans will support him. I also know that he will be successful in life even after his playing days have concluded because he was raised to be a winner.
Malik, all of us at Cardinal Sports Zone thank you for your hard work and dedication to the sport and our University!
Below are some photos of Malik I captured during his career at Louisville. Note that due to Covid, I was not allowed on the sidelines for the entire 2020 season. So sadly, no photos from that year.