Montevallo native, former Giants lineman Korey Cunningham dies at 28

Published 10:13 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Montevallo native Korey Cunningham was reportedly found dead in his home in Clifton, New Jersey on Thursday, April 25.

Cunningham, 28, played five seasons in the NFL, most recently as an offensive tackle for the New York Giants in 2022 during a two-season stint with the team. He was released from the team in August 2023.

Prior to his NFL career, Cunningham graduated from Montevallo High School and played football and basketball for the Bulldogs.

Cunningham was a standout two-sport athlete during his time at Montevallo High School. (File)

Cunningham played on both offense and defense for Montevallo’s football team, including as a tight end. He later signed with the University of Cincinnati to play Division I college football.

Cunningham was also one of the top scorers on the varsity basketball team and an All-County Honorable Mention in 2012.

Even more important than his football career, Cunningham gave back to his hometown even after he graduated. In 2022, he ordered 175 Montevallo sweatshirts to surprise every student-athlete at the school with one for Christmas.

Back when Montevallo’s basketball team reached the Elite Eight, he reached out to then-head coach Greg Dickinson and paid for a team dinner to celebrate.

In addition, Cunningham came back to his hometown and ran free football clinics for kids in the area, often bringing fellow NFL players and his agent down to Montevallo as well.

Former Montevallo head football coach and athletic director Blake Boren helped Cunningham provide some of those events and gifts to the community, and he believes Cunningham made it his mission to help make Montevallo a better place.

“As a father, my goal is you want your kids to grow up and be better than you are, and I think in some ways that sort of was his approach,” Boren said. “He invested in kids and in the future generations to come through Montevallo. And I think clearly, very clearly, he put his time and his energy and his resources into trying to make Montevallo and the future residents and our students better, and I think he achieved that.”

Boren said that many of the students looked up to Cunningham as a result, making his loss even more profoundly felt.

“He had a tremendous impact on our student body,” Boren said. “They walk down the hall every day and they look in the library and they see the jersey hanging on the wall and you look at the graduation photos he’s there and he has a presence. And so, it’s a tough day for the community and the school and Montevallo at large.

He started his NFL career as an offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals after he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Afterwards, he moved to the other side of the ball to defensive tackle when he joined the New England Patriots in 2019-2020. Cunningham came over to the Giants as a defensive tackle in 2021 before switching to the offense in 2022.

During his five seasons in the NFL, Cunningham appeared in 31 games and started six of those.

Boren said that even throughout his NFL career, Cunningham remained connected with his hometown and was invested in his community in a way he didn’t always see with NFL players.

“I’ve been around a number of guys in the NFL and a lot of times, some of those guys have an air about them, you know?” Boren said. “And I never felt that way about Corey. Obviously he was down to Earth, he was humble, he was interested in what we were doing at Montevallo. Even when he was playing for the New England Patriots or playing for the New York Giants, he would check in on Friday nights and want to know scores and what was going on. And so, he had a servant’s heart clearly. In our interactions with him, I think he cared about his hometown and cared about his community.”

The Giants responded to the news with an official statement that was posted on the team’s social media channels.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Korey Cunningham,” the team said. “He was a vital part of the spirit and camaraderie of the locker room. Our thoughts are with Korey’s family, friends and teammates.”