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Black History Month

Warrick Dunn

By RICK STROUD
Published February 27, 2004

AGE: 28.

CLAIM TO FAME: An electrifying back who's a threat as a runner or receiver, Dunn had a sensational college career at Florida State in which he became the first in Seminole history to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He was the 12th overall pick by the Bucs in 1997 and part of a dynamic Thunder and Lightning backfield with Mike Alstott that helped Tampa Bay to the playoffs four times in five seasons.

Since signing as a free agent with the Falcons in 2002, Dunn has been limited by injuries. He was the team's rushing leader last season with 672 yards and three TDs on 125 carries before being placed on injured reserve with a foot sprain Nov. 25. In his first season with the Falcons he had 927 yards and seven TDs.

At 5 feet 9, the diminutive Dunn is best known for having enormous heart. He was ranked No. 79 on Sports Illustrated's list of 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports in 2003. The list was comprised of "men and women who are reshaping the sports industry and opening doors through which others will follow." Quite literally, Dunn has opened doors with his nationally renown Homes for the Holidays project in which he has helped low-income families in Atlanta, Tampa and Baton Rouge, La., buy homes through a down payment provided by Dunn, who worked with area sponsors to furnish and outfit the homes. Since the program was launched in '97, Dunn has enabled 39 mothers and 99 dependents realize their dream of owning a home. His motivation for the program is in memory of his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer and single mother who was killed during a robbery in '93 while working a second job as a security officer.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "Warrick Dunn is a young man with great respect for women. It's a terrible tragedy that he lost his mom. But the amazing strength that he found from that tragedy, you know, it's just so great. He could have given up and said, "I don't want to do this. I'm not going to do this. I don't want even deal with life, let alone help somebody else with theirs.' But he didn't." - Patricia Haygood of St. Petersburg, a single mother with five children and benefactor of Dunn's charity.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Dunn splits time between Atlanta and his home in Tampa and is sometimes seen on area golf courses.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: "Personally, I live my life for me. I'm always out to prove people wrong. We face so many doubters who don't think you can do this or do that. My whole persona is that I want to see how many lives I can change, how many people I can prove wrong and make them Warrick Dunn fans."

[Last modified February 27, 2004, 01:31:31]


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