Randall Cunningham says he doesn't drink or gamble and wouldn't set foot inside a strip club. Yet four years ago, when the former NFL quarterback wanted to start a ministry, he couldn't think of a more ideal location than Sin City. "A lot of people see all the casinos," says Cunningham, a born-again Christian living in Las Vegas. "I see that there's a great need."
A former All-Pro who played for four teams over 16 seasons, Cunningham started out hosting a weekly Bible-study group at home, then became an ordained minister in March 2004. With his wife, Felicity, he formed the Remnant Ministries church and now preaches to a nondenominational Christian congregation of about 170. "We've got people from South Africa, Ghana, Brazil, Korea, even students from UNLV," says Cunningham, 42. "It's a very diverse group." He hopes to move his flock from a 5,300-square-foot facility he built just off the Strip in 2001--it houses his recording studio as well as his church--to a new church, which he is about to break ground on, with three times that space.
On weekdays his state-of-the-art Studio 7 is a welcoming venue for Christian and secular musicians; soon after the $1.5 million facility opened, Huey Lewis and Phil Vassar spent a day there recording Workin' for a Livin'.
A native of Santa Barbara, Calif., and the alltime leader in passing yards (8,020) and punting average (45.6) at UNLV, Cunningham was a second-round pick in the 1985 NFL draft, by the Philadelphia Eagles. In '88 he set team records for completions (301) and passing yards (3,808). He became known as much for his ability to escape pass rushers as for his arm, and in 1990 he ran for 942 yards in addition to throwing for 3,466. After losing his job to Rodney Peete in '95, he retired to Las Vegas, where he started a business making marble and granite countertops.
He returned to football with the Minnesota Vikings in 1997, and the next season, at 35, threw for 3,704 yards and a career-high 34 touchdowns in leading them to the NFC Championship Game. Cunningham spent 2000 with the Dallas Cowboys and '01 with the Baltimore Ravens before retiring for good with 29,979 career passing yards.
Cunningham, who has three children, reached another milestone last December when he completed work on a bachelor's degree in leisure studies. "I didn't think it would be a 20-year plan," says Cunningham, who ranks the achievement with his three Bert Bell awards, bestowed by the Maxwell Football Club to its pro player of the year. "[The diploma] goes right next to them."
The former Eagles star and forerunner of Mike Vick is an ordained minister and owner of a recording studio in Vegas.
LOUIS PSIHOYOS/MATRIX (COVER);TODD BIGELOW/AURORA
Cunningham has read a Good Book lately.