LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Like virtually every other college football player in the U.S., Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham is on his own these days, minus the camaraderie and support of his teammates and the motivation and, shall we say, “encouragement,” of his coaches.
As an unheralded redshirt sophomore last season in an unfamiliar system under new coach Scott Satterfield, Cunningham was one of the biggest surprises in the Power Five conferences while helping the Cardinals to an 8-5 record and directing a big-play offense that was one of the most explosive in the nation.
He was named the MVP of Louisville's win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl and his school record pass efficiency rating of 194.45 was exceeded only by national champion LSU's Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Cunningham hoped to build on that momentum and experience by using spring practice to hone his leadership skills, improve on his fundamentals and expand UofL's playbook. Then came the coronavirus.
So with spring practice cut short by the pandemic and UofL shut down indefinitely, what is Cunningham doing to stay as sharp as possible until this unscheduled hiatus ends?
As much as possible, he said during a teleconference with the media Tuesday afternoon from his home in Montgomery, Ala.
"At this point you have to be more self-motivated," Cunningham said. "You've got to want to do it. Nobody is here to make you get up. You've just got to try to keep the same routine, and that's what I've tried to do."
However, that isn't easy, he noted.
"It's very difficult," Cunningham said. "Just wake up every day and try to be better than the day before. Try to talk to my teammates and stay connected to them and try to keep each other motivated and staying on track for our goals next season. Group chat and FaceTime. This is a very difficult time throughout the world. This has never happened and only God knows what's next for us."
Cunningham said it's helpful that teammates and UofL's strength and conditioning coaches post workout videos on social media. His routine includes weights three days a week and throwing the football a couple of days to keep his arm strong and work on his accuracy.
"The way I look at is, it's me versus the virus" he said. "I try to stay clean like everyone is saying, keep my hands washed. I feel like if you stay away and social distance you can still get your work in and be safe."
Satterfield said Cunningham was performing at a high level when spring practice ended after seven sessions.
"He was having a great spring, he picked up where left off from playing his best game of the year in the bowl," Satterfield said. "He really has good command of what we're doing offensively. We sent in a couple of plays from last fall and he ran them perfectly."
Assuming there's a college football season, Cunningham's first chance to showcase the improvement he has made during the offseason will come on Sept. 3 against NC State in Cardinal Stadium.
TEAMS COMPLETED FOR VEGAS EVENT
San Francisco and Colorado State will round out the field for the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas Nov. 20-22, joining Louisville and Arkansas, which were reported earlier. Games will be played in T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights. No pairings have been announced.
Arkansas was 20-12 overall and 7-11 in the SEC last season. CSU finished 20-12, including 11-7 in the Mountain West Conference, while San Francisco was 22-12 overall and 9-7 in the West Coast Conference under first-year coach Todd Golden.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.