The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Cummings, a former linebacker of the Jets and current LB for the Dallas Cowboys, had an autograph seeker in his midst. He obliged, penning the woman’s soon-to-be-souvenir.
But Tuesday night was about the threads that started Cummings’ journey to the National Football League. The threads that caught the attention of the NCAA Division II Wingate University. The threads that he first draped over his shoulder pads in Robeson County.
It was about his No. 72 Purnell Swett Rams jersey, which was encased in glass and displayed during a jersey retirement ceremony for the former Ram in a filled-to-the-brim Swett gym at halftime of the Swett boys’ 68-51 loss to Lumberton. The Lady Rams took the girls showdown with a 52-43 win over the Lady Pirates.
Cummings, son of Kenwin Sr. and Darlene Cummings, was joined on the south end of the court by a throng of family members, friends and coaches, including former Swett coach Frank Jernigan and current Wingate coach Joe Reich. Both reminisced on their time coaching the Maxton native.
“In my career I’ve coached 43 years and I’ve estimated that I’ve coached from 13-to-15,000 football players,” Jernigan said of his former Ram. “In those 43 years, Kenwin Cummings in the hardest working, the best kid that I’ve ever coached. And I love him like my own son.”
Cummings’ all-state senior season at Swett in 2004 — he racked up 202 tackles in his first year at LB after switching from offensive guard — led to a scholarship offer from Wingate, where he went on to earn two all-american nods. In 2007, he led the South Atlantic Conference in quarterback sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (18).
“What an honor it was for us to coach you and what a pleasure it was to have you at Wingate University for four years,” Reich said to Cummings.
Four years that propelled Cummings to the NFL. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Cummings spent his first two and a half years in the league with the Jets before he was picked up by the Cowboys on Dec. 8, 2010.
Cummings showed that he’s a pro on and off the gridiron during his acceptance speech Tuesday.
“I have to thank my family, my huge entire family, for their support,” Cummings said. “And to Robeson County and Purnell Swett … Everybody’s been with me 100 percent through all my ups and downs.”
In closing, Cummings turned his attention towards the students — wide-eyed and full of goals like he once was as a student-athlete at Purnell Swett.
“For all of you athletes out there, never give up on your goals and things you want to achieve in life,” Cummings said. He has been a sufferer of Type 1 diabetes since he was 15-years-old. “You’re going to get knocked down, but just remember you can always get back up. And when you’re knocked to your knees, pray to the Good Lord and have faith and continue to push on and you can do anything you want.”
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org