Eagles' Cunningham weds confidence with maturity Marriage, religion give QB relaxed outlook

September 19, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham says he is no longer an enigma. He was married last May. He has a new offensive coordinator and some new teammates. His new book, "I'm Still Scramblin' ", just came out in advanced copies.

Did you read it?

Maybe you should. It's Randall up close and very personal.

"There have been a lot of things written about me, some things that were true, some that weren't," said Cunningham, 30, whose Eagles face the Washington Redskins today at Veterans Stadium. "People really never knew me on a day-to-day basis. But for the first time I feel that people will get a chance to learn about me in the book.

"I'm the same player I always was, but I'm definitely happier. It starts with being married. I read the Bible every day and it strengthens me. Offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski allows me to do what I want to do, and this may be the year I peak. It all has to deal with maturity."

This supposed transformation took place in early May. That's when Cunningham married South African dancer Felicity deJager at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.

It was a grand affair.

Rapper Hammer was in attendance, along with boxer Evander Holyfield, rhythm-and-blues singer Johnny Gill, actress and singer Whitney Houston and the Trump family.

The two wedding cakes cost $30,000, and the menu included filet mignon and Dom Perignon champagne. Reporters or outside photographers were not allowed, and Cunningham purchased video rights to the wedding.

Total cost of wedding: $1 million.

Quite a settling down fee.

"I think that when you get married or have other special anniversaries, you do it up the best that you can," said Cunningham. "I didn't know it would get out of hand where there would be thousands of people outside waiting to get invitations or trying to get autographs. Honestly."

Eagles running back Herschel Walker said: "Randall really is a family man. We're pretty good friends and we talk a lot. Basically, he's home every night like I am, living the family life."

Get the picture?

Randall sitting in an overstuffed chair by the fireplace. Two cars, a Corolla and Escort, parked in the garage. The St. Bernard brings him the newspaper. Randall smokes a pipe, while conversing with Wally and The Beav.

"Hey, I'm not the typical blue-collar guy, but that doesn't mean I'm not a family man," said Cunningham. "I have a great wife and a great relationship. When things are OK at home, then you can go on and carry on a great life. When things go bad, you always have someone you can talk to."

There are few people who understand Cunningham, who at times keeps the public guessing as much as he does defensive linemen. He says, though, there is a way.

"I wish everyone would read the Bible," said Cunningham. "Life could be fulfilled easier and people would understand me, because they'd know what I believe."

Third-year coach Rich Kotite believed he had to change Cunningham's role in the offense for this season. Before Cunningham tore ligaments in his left knee in the 1991 opener against the Green Bay Packers that caused him to miss the rest of that season, his biggest asset was his ability to improvise.

He could turn a potentially disastrous play into a touchdown. The pocket was merely a formality.

But last season, Cunningham said the Eagles tried to change his style, and that Kotite had become Big Brother.

"Rich was protecting me," said Cunningham. "He didn't want me to get injured. They had built the offense for Jim McMahon, a quarterback who was going to stay in the pocket. That's just not me."

Cunningham still led Philadelphia to a 12-4 record and its first playoff victory since 1980, but Kotite described Cunningham's play as inconsistent.

So now Kotite has made Bratkowski, his quarterback coach, the offensive coordinator. Kotite also relinquished his play-calling duties to Bratkowski, who in turn, gave Cunningham the right to ad-lib.

The 1993 results thus far: Cunningham has completed 41 of 58 passes for 401 yards. He has rushed 12 times for 62 yards. The Eagles are 2-0.

"The scary part is that this offense is still not totally clicking," said Cunningham. "I've been given the green light, so to speak, and I feel that's when I'm at my best. Last year, I didn't feel comfortable about Richie. Zeke and I have a pretty tight relationship and we have to keep it that way."

Cunningham also might be silencing some of his critics. His coaches have questioned his decision-making processes on the field. His teammates have wondered about his leadership skills in the huddle.

And the Philly fans are becoming increasingly impatient, wondering if Cunningham is capable of giving Philadelphia its first Super Bowl victory.

Maybe some answers came last week in the Eagles' 20-17 comeback win against the Packers. Cunningham fumbled the ball away twice and threw an interception in the first quarter. His old pal, Reggie White, ripped the ball from his grasp twice.

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