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Longtime NFL coach Gunther Cunningham dies at 72

DETROIT, MI - CIRCA 2010: In this photo provided by the NFL, Gunther Cunningham of the Detroit Lions poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Longtime NFL coach Gunther Cunningham, who emigrated from postwar Germany as a child and then dedicated his life to football, has died after a brief illness. He was 72.

Cunningham’s wife, Rene, said in a statement that he died Saturday.

Cunningham spoke no English when his family arrived in the U.S., and he was ridiculed for both his accent and ancestry as a child. But he developed into a standout prep football player in California and earned a scholarship to play linebacker at Oregon.

He eventually coached the Ducks along with Arkansas, Stanford and California before spending time in the CFL. He arrived in the NFL as an assistant with the Colts in 1982, then worked with the Chargers and Raiders before making a name for himself with the Kansas City Chiefs.

He went 16-16 during two years as their head coach.

Cunningham was the Defensive Coordinator for the Detroit Lions from 2009 through 2013.

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