RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVR) - "Ronald Cunningham was the poster child for what we want in our program," Dinwiddie High School football coach Billy Mills said about his former team captain. "As gentle and as nice a person that he was off the field, he was a beast on the field."
Cunningham, who attended Saint Augustine’s University after graduating from Dinwiddie, died unexpectedly Sunday. The university scheduled a memorial prayer vigil Monday evening for the 19-year-old freshman football player.
“We are saddened by the passing of Ronald Cunningham,” Saint Augustine’s University Athletic Director George Williams said. “He was a member of the St. Aug family, so everyone is grieving right now. He was an outstanding student-athlete and also an outstanding person. He was fun to be around. Our heart bleeds for the family.”
Cunningham reported feeling sick Sunday morning, was taken to the hospital and died that afternoon, university spokeswoman Shelley Willingham-Hinton told WRAL.com. She said foul play was not suspected.
Cunningham recently injured his knee in practice and was preparing to have surgery, Mills said. He said he learned of Cunningham's death while driving back to Dinwiddie from Baltimore Sunday night. Instead of stopping in Central Virginia, Mills drove all the way down to Raleigh to be with Cunningham's family.
Cunningham was a four-year starter at right guard for the Dinwiddie Generals.
Coach Mills said Cunningham was honored as an all-region player during his time at Dinwiddie.
"He was a tremendous person," Mills said. "When you saw a kid in the hallway that was upset, he [Cunningham] was always there trying to help him."
Coach Mills said a memorial would planned at Dinwiddie High School for Cunningham after his family returned from North Carolina.