Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham is coming off a standout year in which he led the SEC with 125 tackles. He also had 16.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles on his way to becoming the first player in team history to earn unanimous First Team All-America.
Cunningham will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. But he will leave with some fantastic memories from his time with the Commodores.
On Tuesday, Vanderbilt published a touching open letter from Cunningham in which he thanked fans for making his time with the Commodores special.
You can read the full letter below:
Dear Commodore Nation,
Four years ago, I signed a scholarship to play football at Vanderbilt University. At that time, receiving an education, having the opportunity to show my abilities on the playing field, and creating friendships that could last me a lifetime was all I thought I needed. Instead, Vanderbilt has given me much more.
To play in the SEC at one of the country’s top academic universities has been a challenging yet rewarding experience. I’ve gone through coaching changes, personal development and witnessed incredible moments all while being blessed with unbelievable relationships. The teammates that I’ve had the opportunity to play with are what I am most proud of. This group always fought hard and never backed down from a challenge. It is because of them and the coaching staff that I have become a better person and player.
Declaring early for the NFL has not been an easy decision, but with guidance from my family and coaching staff I feel like this is the right thing for me to do. I am one of seven siblings and my close-knit family has been with me since day one. As always, I am thankful for the amount of support I have received from my family, especially throughout this process.
I know Vanderbilt has a bright future under Coach Mason. He came in after my freshman year, and our team has had to acclimate to his expectations for the future of the program. Coach Mason has been a valuable mentor for me. Since arriving at Vanderbilt, he and his staff, in particular coaches Chris Marve and Kenwick Thompson, have taught me responsibility and accountability. The early morning workouts, discipline in the classroom and attention to details have all shaped me into the man I am today. The work ethic and drive Vanderbilt has instilled in me is something I will always take with me.
With that being said I want to first and foremost thank God for putting me into this position. Without him I know none of this would be possible.
I would also like to thank my Vanderbilt family and all of our fans. Thank you all for supporting me through these years, supporting our team and having our backs when it counted the most.
I will never forget my time at Vanderbilt and I will always be a Commodore.
Thank you and Anchor Down!