The Cunning Man

Jerome Cunningham's amazing journey to the NFL

by Michael Marcello

When you hear the 6’4’’ and 240 pound Jerome Cunningham’s college football statistics, you may not instantly think he’d be NFL material. If you caught sight of Jerome Cunningham, you would instantly start rethinking that previous statement. The tight end out of Southern Connecticut State University looks like you should be able to find a miniature version of him in a toy store’s action figure aisle. The Division II football product recorded 61 catches for 690 yards which included 7 touchdowns in 4 seasons. He was given the opportunity to try out for the Colts after going undrafted in 2013. After failing to receive a contract offer, he went back to school to finish his degree. In 2014, he was given tryouts by both the Saints and Cardinals; however, still no bites. Despite the disappointment, Jerome still wouldn’t back down. Jerome’s college teammate and good friend Gary Williams stated that, “Rome was just a bigger target than every other player on the field. His physique itself attracted coaches. He was also very fast for his size and could block the edge really well. He really got a lot of looks off of his hard work that he did on his own. After being cut three times by three different NFL teams he never gave up.” Jerome worked that summer at a Taylor Rental branch located in Branford, Connecticut. Taylor Rental is a party equipment rental service and Jerome’s incredible strength proved to be an invaluable asset. I had the pleasure of meeting Jerome that summer, as I was fortunate enough to work beside him. The best part of him was not his unbelievable physique, but the genuine character and welcoming persona he had. Honestly, you would have never thought that he was trying out for NFL teams due to his humble manner. Even with our grueling work schedule in the hot summer sun all day, Jerome still got his work done in the weight room and on the field. I recall Jerome telling me many times how he was heading to the gym or to the field to work on his football skills, despite just working a 12 hour shift. You would think that someone who was nearly NFL bound to not exactly take a summer job setting up parties and graduations too seriously, but Jerome worked as hard as anyone if not harder. The things that Jerome would do on a regular basis were almost Bo Jackson like. A few of us went to a McDonald’s for lunch one day last summer to escape from the summer sun for a bit. A typical summer work day turned into something special when Jerome noticed his phone going off and walked outside to take the call. As the rest of us continued eating our lunch, Jerome came back to tell us some amazing news. “I’m heading to the Giants”, he said with a huge grin on his face. You couldn’t help but feel great for him. The humble, sincere, hardworking Jerome Cunningham had a good chance to make his dreams come true. He had to leave for New York that day, so once we left the McDonald’s and got back to the Taylor Rental warehouse; we said our goodbyes and good lucks. There was no sense of jealousy from anyone, even though the rest of us would still have to wake up early the next morning to set up tents and fulfill other manual labor tasks. Jerome was that guy you couldn’t help but feel happy for. Jerome was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent on August 5, 2014 and then to the practice squad on September 3rd. He was signed to the active roster on December 17th and was active for the final 2 games of the 2014 season. Jerome hasn’t stopped there, as he’s currently competing for a starting tight end position and frequently receives praise for his hard work on and off the field.