United States Sports Academy alumnus Byron Cunningham is in his seventh season as a physical therapist and assistant athletic trainer for the award-winning training program of the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL).
In his role, Cunningham (Master of Sports Science degree in sports medicine, 2002) is responsible for the care, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of player injuries in coordination with the team’s head athletic trainer.
“I’ve been very thankful and appreciative of the Rams organization in my seventh year with the team,” Cunningham said.
“Working for the Rams has been an honor and a privilege because I’ve always felt that it takes a special and unique person to work in sports. My biggest enjoyment about my profession is being hands-on with the players on a daily basis. My responsibility consists of rehabilitation of athletic injuries, from your day-to-day ankle sprain to the knee or shoulder injury that requires surgery and takes 10 months to rehab.”
Cunningham earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Florida A&M University in 1998 and a Master of Sports Science degree in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy in 2002.
“The Academy prepared me for my career because I had instructors who cared and challenged me on a daily basis, and in sports nothing comes easy because ultimately the end result is about winning,” Cunningham said. “Earning my degree from an institution that focuses only on sports was very exciting because sports are something that I have always participated in, whether as an athlete or a fan.”
“It is easy to say that my greatest professional achievement is working with an NFL team because I have one of just 32 jobs, but at the same time it is humbling knowing that working in professional sports is not an easy profession to obtain,” he said. “I’m thankful every day knowing I can come to work and do a job that I’ve dreamed of doing since my time at the United States Sports Academy. My career goal is to become a director of rehabilitation or head athletic trainer for a professional sports team.”
The Rams training staff was named the 2015 NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year by the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society. Cunningham said the award was important because it is selected by other NFL athletic trainers. This was the first time the Rams have been honored with the award since it was established in 1985.
“Being named the 2015 NFL Athletic Training Staff is a tremendous honor, especially when it is voted on by your peers from the other 31 NFL teams,” Cunningham said. “It also shows the trust and the positive reputation we have established with our players and organization.”
Prior to joining the Rams staff, Cunningham was head athletic trainer at the University of Illinois from 2007-09, after serving the two previous years as the university’s assistant athletic trainer from 2005-07. Cunningham spent 2004-05 as the head athletic trainer at Bishop McNamara Catholic High School in Kankakee, Ill.
Cunningham also has experience working internationally as an assistant athletic trainer with NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire in 2004. He also interned with the Chicago Bears in 2003, Auburn University from 2001-03, and the Indianapolis Colts during the team’s 2002 training camp.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.