A few weeks after I started working at State, I reconnected with a former classmate of mine, Damein “DC” Cunningham, ’04.
For those of you who grew up in Indiana and Illinois, you’d be hard pressed to not run into Indiana State alumni. Damein and I, however, grew up in Colleton County, S.C., which is the coastal county between Charleston and Beaufort counties — and a long way from Terre Haute!
A proud Sycamore, Damein quarterbacked Indiana State’s football team for two seasons after leading the Walterboro (S.C.) High School Bulldogs to a state championship in 1997. I was in the school’s band program, and that same year the Band of Blue was crowned S.C. AAAA State Marching Band Champions.
It’s no secret football is a religion in the South, and Damein’s time on the team capped o the heyday of our school’s football program. As Damein rattled off a dozen names of former Bulldogs, his excitement was that of a child who grew up in the long shadows of giants.
“I can remember as kids we would fight each other to be called one of those guys’ names,” he said. “Those were the guys. We wanted to be those guys so bad.”
Now Damein is one of the names people remember when they’re telling stories of the glory days. As a role model both back home and in his job as a road patrol trooper for Illinois State Police, he doesn’t take the responsibility lightly. For instance, when off-duty, he’s often seen wearing a coat and tie.
“It feels good when you look nice.”
Damein says he was first drawn to law enforcement for the same reasons as his love of the gridiron — the physicality, making split-second decisions, the adrenaline rush. “I’m an adrenaline junkie. I knew if I wasn’t going to play football, the only field that matched the same adrenaline as football is criminal justice,” he said.
Damein, who is married to two-time Sycamore Christy Cunningham, originally of Terre Haute, returned to campus on Sept. 19 to talk to Professor Travis Behem’s Introduction to Policing and Criminal Justice Writing classes. He looks forward to future visits to campus to talk to students.
“It’s almost like I’m still playing football — only the stakes are higher,” he said. “In the police arena, you can lose your life. You must perfect your craft.”