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1990s / Richie Cunningham - NFL Placekicker
It can be an unfortunate or amusing coincidence when someone, quite by chance, has the same name of a celebrity or a fictitious character. Such was the case of of Richie Cunningham, an NFL placekicker who shared the name of Ron Howard's character from the TV sitcom Happy Days. The football-playing Cunningham was born in Houma, LA in 1970--four years before Happy Days hit the airwaves. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and did most of the kicking for the school's football team. Undrafted, he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 1994, but released. He was back with the Cowboys by 1997 where he enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign. In 1998 he kicked 34 field goals to set a Dallas team record. On occasion, a snippet of the Happy Days theme would be played over the public-address system after Cunningham successfully booted a three-pointer. ESPN's Chris Berman, in doing the NFL highlight package, liked to say "Cunningham Potsied the ball through the uprights!" However, being an NFL kicker is a tenuous existence. Partway through the 1999 NFL season, Cowboys released Cunningham when his accuracy on field goals was just over 50 percent. By 2002 he was out of football altogether after stops in Carolina, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Green Bay.