NFL running back Warrick Dunn is truly one of the good guys in the world of sports.
Warrick Dunn and his five brothers and sisters all idolized their mother, Baton Rouge police officer Betty Smothers. As the oldest, Dunn was the closest to her, and the man of the house. On January 7, 1993, while the single mother worked a second job as a supermarket security guard, Betty Smothers was ambushed, shot, and killed while making a bank deposit. Dunn–then a high school senior just weeks away from choosing among his college football scholarship offers–was devastated.
Dunn was only eighteen when circumstances changed and he had to look after his five siblings, but somehow he managed to enroll at Florida State and, in only his freshman year, help their team quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and roommate Charlie Ward, win the National Championship for the 1993-94 season. And this was just the beginning of Dunn’s successful career as a student athlete, which resulted in his selection to the FSU Hall of Fame.
Despite his modest size, Dunn’s athleticism, incomparable drive, and personality convinced Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy to select Dunn in the first round of the 1997 draft with the twelfth overall pick. During his career with the Bucs and, subsequently, the Atlanta Falcons, Dunn amassed five 1,000-yard rushing seasons, was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl three times, and became one of only twenty-three running backs to exceed the 10,000-yard career rushing mark. In 2008, he returned to the Bucs seeking to continue his success.
The same year, Dunn released his revealing autobiography Running for My Life, sharing his incredibly moving, inspirational story of courage and determination in the face of devastating loss, a story that makes his achievements on the football field that much more amazing.
But perhaps his greatest achievement during his time as an NFL player came off the field when he started a foundation called Homes for the Holidays, a charity that helps single parents become homeowners. To date, he has placed 100 single parents and their 192 dependents in fully furnished and outfitted homes in Tampa, Tallahassee, Baton Rouge, and Atlanta. He also founded Betty’s Hope, a program that provides group support to kids who have experienced a loss. He has received a Giant Steps Award in civic leadership from former President Bill Clinton for his programs.