By David Knox, Sports Editor
Former Pinson Valley star and current Vanderbilt star linebacker Zach Cunningham was named National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his career-best performance in the Commodores’ 17-16 road victory over Georgia on Saturday in Athens.
Cunningham, a redshirt junior inside linebacker, collected 19 total tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, against the Bulldogs. It marked a career high for the 2015 consensus first team All-Southeastern Conference selection and was the highest tackle total by a Commodore defender in 17 years.
Cunningham capped his effort with a game-winning stop on fourth-and-1 on the Vandy 41. On the play, Cunningham sprinted toward the sideline to tackle Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie for no gain. The stellar individual play sealed Vanderbilt’s first victory at Georgia in a decade.
Cunningham’s 19 tackles were the most by a Commodore since linebacker Jamie Winborn registered 20 tackles in a Vanderbilt win against South Carolina on Oct. 23, 1999.
Through seven games, Cunningham is the SEC leader in multiple defensive categories. He ranks first in the league – and fourth in the nation – with 81 total tackles, averaging 11.6 stops per game. He also leads the conference – and is third nationally – with 13 tackles for loss.
Cunningham has been even better in SEC play. He is averaging 13.8 tackles and 2.3 tackles for loss – both league-leading totals – in four conference games.
Vandy hosts Tennessee State for homecoming on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in a game televised on ESPNU.