Cunningham preparing for the next level

-A A +A
By Brian Forbes

Curtis Cunningham is just a little guy again.

Yes, it seems almost impossible to imagine that the Columbine graduate – a standout defensive lineman and hard-swinging first baseman – could ever be small in any situation, but he is. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Cunningham started classes this week at the University of Colorado and began running and lifting weights last week with his new Buffaloes teammates in hopes of making coach Dan Hawkins’ squad this fall as a true freshman.

"It’s a change," Cunningham said last week, a day before moving into the dorms in Boulder for a summer semester intended to get him ahead and relieve some of the stress before he puts pads on. "I’m on the bottom of the totem pole again."

Of course, he left at or near the top of it.

With state championships in football and baseball and numerous honors and accolades, Cunningham walks away from Columbine with an impressive resume. He was selected to play in the Senior Top 50 game at Coors Field but respectfully declined, saying he hasn’t touched a bat since the Rebels lost to Cherry Creek in the Class 5A district tournament to end their season at 11-10.

His work in the classroom, on the field and in the community saw him nominated for the Rocky Mountain News’ annual Steinmark Award.

"High school is definitely an awesome experience, but you can’t dwell on that forever," Cunningham said. "You got to move on and try to do bigger and better things."

Cunningham, who graduated last month with a 3.5 grade-point average, plans on majoring in finance. His toughest class, arguably, will be when the hitting begins on the football field and roster spots are up for grabs.

Cunningham said the first of probably many cool feelings hit him when he reported for duty recently as a student/athlete and not just a recruit.

"I walked in on Tuesday (May 27) and I had a nameplate on my locker," Cunningham said. "That was probably the coolest thing to see. I can actually use the equipment."

He’ll surely put it to good use. Like most of Columbine’s top players, Cunningham was a regular in the weight room, by all accounts. He said the coaching staff at Colorado has not told him he needs to reach a certain weight for the fall, but Cunningham knows he will need all the size and speed he can get. Especially since the Buffs have offered no early indication that they intend to redshirt him.

"It’s a whole different ball game. Everyone is a great high school athlete that goes up to college. It’s a level playing field," he said. "This summer is definitely going to help me. I get to look at the body types to see what kind of speed and what kind of strength I need to have."

Nothing like being the little guy again.