Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Ten Minutes with Richie Cunningham

NFL pro turned pharmaceutical CEO



Photo by Stan Godlewski

Richie Cunningham spent the 1990s seesawing between the life of a pro athlete and that of a healthcare executive. So how does he end up here: an All-Pro NFL placekicker from Louisiana who is now CEO of Icagen, a North Carolina–based pharmaceutical company that specializes in early drug discovery? We sat down with Cunningham to trace the arc of his fascinating career—from the Dallas Cowboys to Boehringer Ingelheim, which brought him to Ridgefield. 

Your career has taken an unusual path. Help us connect the dots. 
I grew up in south Louisiana, and most of the kids there went into the oil or seafood industry. Sports were an escape for me. I played baseball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which paid for my books. And I walked onto the football team. I probably only kicked 12 field goals my entire college career.  

So how did you turn pro?
After college, I flew around to tryouts, slept in my car, put myself into debt. I got invited to camp for the Cowboys in 1994, worked my way up to number one, and then missed a couple of 52-yard kicks in preseason. So I missed the team. 

Was that a big disappointment?
That was the best thing that could have happened to me. I never wanted to forsake my career for something that was a long shot. And I had a background in marketing, so I got a job in San Diego with a medical company. My boss there—a mentor of mine—told me I shouldn’t give up on the NFL. I almost made the Packers in 1996, and then landed the starting job for the Cowboys in 1997. 

You played on a team with Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, and Herschel Walker, but only you and Deion Sanders made All-Pro. Ever tease your teammates about that? 
Ha! No. At that point I knew I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew it would be short-lived, so in the off-season I went back to California and worked full-time. 

How are things in an NFL locker room for a placekicker named Richie Cunningham? 
Personalities are different in the locker room than in front of the camera. Deion in Dallas and Reggie White in Carolina were the nicest guys. A lot of kickers keep to themselves, but when I went to the Cowboys, I wanted them to know that I worked as hard as everyone else. I would pull the sleds. I would run the scout-team quarterback. And yes, they called me Opie. 

What was the most pressure-packed kick you made in the NFL? 
My first one! It was 1997, Three River Stadium in Pittsburgh. And it was, you guessed it, a 52-yarder from the left hash. 

How did dealing with that pressure help in your business career?
Well, my whole NFL career helped me. Nothing ever comes easy in business. There is always a challenge, always stress. It comes down to who can remain composed in those situations. 

If or when the Affordable Care Act is repealed, how will that affect Icagen?
I don’t think it will impact us too much. The bottom line is that, for many people, pharmaceuticals provide the most effective way to manage care outside of healthy living. So we’re in favor of anything that increases the access to life-saving drugs.

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

            

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

See this weekend's events in the area!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Playing Through

Mini Golf at the Library (not kidding!) for their Annual Love Your Library celebration

Ridgefield Out & About - Sept/Oct

2017

Armed & Gorgeous

Keeler Tavern Museum’s Cannonball Gala

Taco Talk

Restaurants dedicated to Tacos coming Ridgefield

’Za, Down Low

Top notch Italian food and pizza at Romolo Gastro-Pizza

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

September 2017

Admission to each garden is $7 for members and nonmembers without tickets purchased in advance. Buy discounted admission tickets in advance! They never expire and can be used at most Open...

Where:
Various Locations
, CT


Website »

More information

Literally glowing in the dark, iLuminate first seared itself into the eyes of millions on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. The group’s jaw-dropping fusion of technology and...

Cost: $60

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Enjoy the Irish ambiance at Ives Concert Park in Danbury and take a musical trip to the Emerald Isle! There will be lots of different bands throughout the weekend. Plus a cultural tent,...

Where:
Ives Concert Park
GPS Address: 43 Lake Avenue Extension
Danbury, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

It’s a night of hits with rock & roll maverick Todd Rundgren! The iconic songwriter, recording artist, producer and innovator is best known for his rock classic “I Saw the...

Cost: $70

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 E Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Contact Name: Vania Saintfery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The WCSU Student Veterans Organization and Danbury Animal Welfare Society will host "Pets and Vets" from noon to 3 p.m. on the Midtown campus Quadrangle, 181 White St. in Danbury. A...

Cost: Free

Where:
WCSU Midtown Campus
181 White Street
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Website »

More information

Direct from its success in London’s West End, a SOLD OUT UK tour and standing ovations at every performance, The Simon & Garfunkel Story is back! Using huge projection...

Cost: $50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) as they come together to help E.T. find his way back home. Winning four Academy Awards®, including one for...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Cohen and Wolf, P.C. Fathom Events Presents & Movie Series
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Does speaking before a group make you totally anxiety ridden?  Whether for business or volunteer work, Whether you have to speak in front of large groups for work or you have a big event...

Cost: $240

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

If you’ve seen Bonnie Raitt live – chances are you’ve seen Jon Cleary at the piano. Raitt often calls Cleary “the ninth wonder of the world.” He is a triple threat...

Cost: $37.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Rigde Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Pepsi Rock Series powered by xfinity
Website »

More information

If you’ve seen Bonnie Raitt live – chances are you’ve seen Jon Cleary at the piano. Raitt often calls Cleary “the ninth wonder of the world.” He is a triple threat...

Cost: $37.50

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Pepsi Rock Series Powered by xfinity Moffly Media Evening of Art, Wine and Jazz Series
Website »

More information

WCSU will present the Midtown Coffeehouse at 8 p.m. in the Colonial Corner in the Student Center on the university's Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The coffeehouse will feature an...

Cost: Free

Where:
WCSU Midtown Campus
181 White Street
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) as they come together to help E.T. find his way back home. Winning four Academy Awards®, including one for...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Cohen and Wolf, P.C. Fathom Events Presents & Movie Series
Website »

More information

Celebrating his new solo release “We Are The Ones” On the heels of Twister Sister’s 2016 Farewell Tour, Dee Snider brings a night Twisted Sister’s rock anthems...

Cost: $95.00

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Pepsi Rock Series powered by xfinity
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

TROPHIES Awarded to the top 3 Male and top 3 Female in each age group * PRIZES for Top Male and Top Female Overall * CHIP-TIMING of both the 5K and the 1-Mile * T-SHIRT, Race...

Cost: $35/$20

Where:
Jennings Beach
880 S Benson road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Only You Foundation
Telephone: 203-292-6601
Contact Name: Kelly Fedak
Website »

More information

Saturday September 23, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Join Joe Brandt from The CT/Westchester Mycological Association for a fascinating walk through our woodlands as you look for fascinating mushrooms....

Cost: FREE

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

CT on Tap is back for its 4th year on Saturday, September 23rd at Ives Concert Park from 3pm – 6pm (VIP at 2pm). This 3-hour premium event will showcase 100+ releases from some of...

Cost: Advance $35 or $40, Door $45, VIP $55

Where:
Ives Concert Park
43 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Sponsor: Ives Concert Park
Telephone: 203-837-9226
Contact Name: Ives Concert Park
Website »

More information

ZEPPELIN COMPLETE is the brainchild of the original members of the international touring Zeppelin tribute Hammer of the Gods, who were looking to faithfully present Led Zeppelin’s...

Cost: $69 orch | $59 mezz | $49 balc

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Zeppelin Complete is the brainchild of the original members of the international touring Zeppelin tribute Hammer of the Gods, who were looking to faithfully present Led Zeppelin’s...

Cost: $69 orch | $59 mezz | $49 balc

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags