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Getting a handle on Dunn


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 26, 2000

Running back Warrick Dunn has raised his brothers and sisters since his mother's death when he was a senior in high school. Here are his takes on the holidays, becoming the Bucs' primary running back, Richard Pryor, rap music, Tamia and single parenthood.

RM: Since your mom's death, are Thanksgivings harder to enjoy?

WD: Hmm, I don't know. They're just Thanksgivings. They mean a lot because you get together with family and friends. But, I think from my family's approach, every year, as we get further away from what happened, we get closer. The first year, it was just Thanksgiving. Now, I feel that we care about one another and really want to spend time with each other.

RM: In general, do you reflect on your mom's death during the holidays?

WD: You can always reflect. It doesn't take a holiday to reflect. You just live. If she was here, she would be living. We know that people will come and go and that's the way God has things worked out. You just have to deal with it.

RM: So, now that Mike Alstott's gone, are you the man?

WD: I'm just going to do what I do. I have been doing that this year. I wasn't really worried about getting taken out of the game. As the season went along, the offense started a certain way and then moved in another direction to try and spread people out to be more effective. Now, there's pressure though. There's pressure when you have somebody behind you that's just as good. There's pressure to go out there and succeed just because there are a lot of people who will doubt you.

RM: People doubt that you can take the pounding of a 25-carry back.

WD: I don't get 25-carry hits, which are those hits that some guys take. I'm not dumb. If I don't have anything, I'm going to get down. I hardly ever fight too much for extra yardage because you usually get hurt. The thing is, when I run, I try to protect myself at all costs because I do want to be able to walk away from the game.

RM: What you're saying is: "To hell with those who doubt your strength."

WD: I can't worry about what people say. I know how I train my body. I know what my body can take. On Monday, I'm not sore at all. People think after the Chicago game that I would have been sore because I took three good hits. But I wasn't. I was behind my pads every time. They may look bad, but they don't hurt at all. I learned to go with the hit, which makes it looks worse but not feel that worse the next day.

RM: Where did you learn the spin move?

WD: I don't know where that came from. I have no idea. It just happens. When I do it, it's off instincts. Most guys can't do it, or don't have the ability to do it. But, I can do a few things. I'm about breaking tackles and that's just a way about breaking tackles.

RM: 1,000 yards?

WD: On this level, 1,000 yards is nothing. But, you have to start somewhere. I think it's going to happen, just like the 100-yard games. There are times when I'm so close and you could say that if I got 20-25 carries, then maybe on those last few carries I get you get the extra 15 yards. You never know.

RM: Are you from Whoville or a Grinch?

WD: I fall in between. When I was younger, I didn't get any gifts because everything went to my brothers and sisters and I just never really wanted anything. Christmas is a day of giving, but I try to tell my family that every day is Christmas because we have the opportunity to be with each other. If you see something for somebody, you're going to get it even if it's not for Christmas. I know a lot of people get mad at me because I'm not out at the malls during the Christmas holidays buying 15 gifts for one person. I just think it's a holiday where people overspend sometimes.

RM: What's your message to single-parent homes?

WD: You want them to work hard and to strive for what they want. At the same time, they have to be patient. If they're patient and doing the right thing, God is going to look after them. Single mothers get a bad rap because of society. It's unfair. Guys can get away with murder and women can't. Guys can go out and have five kids and be seen as a great man. Women can't. The biggest message is: "Do you want your child to live the way you do or do you want them to live better?" That's what my mother stressed and that's what I work my butt off for.

RM: Chante Moore or Tamia?

WD: That's tough. Man, that's tough. Chante is single now, isn't she? Tamia is spoken for. But Tamia has natural ability, you can see it. Chante Moore, she's just bad. Either way, you can't go wrong.

RM: Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor?

WD: I love the movie Stir Crazy so I'm going to have to go with Richard Pryor. Richard Pryor is like a myth, a legend.

RM: Tu-Pac or Biggie?

WD: I can relate to what Tu-Pac is talking about. Now, Biggie talked it and had the sound that went it with. He had you bobbing (to the beat). Lyrically, Tupac is strong, very strong. But I like the way Biggie delivers.

RM: What you think about athlete rappers?

WD: Everybody always has a dream of doing something. Now they have the opportunity to try to do something. Now, they make enough money that they can venture off and do some things. That's all those guys are doing.

RM: What about you?

WD: I would love to act. If I had the opportunity to be serious about it, I would try it. I have been out there in Hollywood and met a lot of actors and actresses and I think if you're a natural, it'll be easy.

RM: Will the 76ers win the NBA title?

WD: I'm a Lakers fan. The Diesel will come out, Kobe will be there, too. But it's not just those two guys, they have a lot of people back and they have a good coach, a great coach. Too early to say. Just because you go 10-1 doesn't mean you're in the NBA Finals.

RM: Miss McDonnel's second grade class at Westchase Elementary wants to know why you chose football?

WD: It's simple, I love athletics but football has always driven me. It's a team sport and there's nothing like the challenge of running through 11 defenders. I love the game. I love that people doubt me.

RM: Thanksgiving memo to Gator fans?

WD: Better luck next year.

RM: Last thing, I got this 30-year-old, single, well-educated sister-in-law who wants your digits; possible?

WD: No. Not right now. I've been through the relationships and right now I couldn't give 110 percent to someone. I'm focused on football. It wouldn't be fair.

RM: What if she looked like Chante?

WD: Ahhh ... that would be tough.

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