“Sacrifice and believe in yourself! Challenge yourself to always be the best.” ~ Warrick Dunn
Many of us face adversity, but probably not to the extent of losing our mom when we were 18 years old at the hands of a criminal with a gun. Then to rise above it all, reaching top success with two NFL teams as well as personal endeavors to benefit others through charities, foundations and special projects. It takes determination and commitment that’s truly difficult to find, but it’s exactly what Warrick Dunn has done.
A former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Atlanta Falcon (a team for which he’s now part owner), Warrick talks with Tam-Star in this revealing interview about his good friend Derrick Brooks (whose life very closely mirrored his own both on and off the field), his special connection with NBA player Charlie Ward, his picks for top running backs of all time, and what inspired him to write his book, Running for My Life.
He thinks you’d be surprised to know he’s laid back, chill and funny, but we know you’ll also be impressed to know he wasn’t just a standout on the football field, but he’s continuing to score big points teaming up with the Crown Royal Heroes Project, as well as his many big-hearted efforts to help others across the country.
Maybe not as off-the-wall as some of our other sports figure interviews, but it’s one that’s insightful and inspirational, especially in this season of giving.
Tam-Star: Life after the NFL. How did you handle the transition and what is it like being a retired football player?
Warrick: Life after football has been pretty good. I’ve tried to stay busy and I’ve continued to just work. I have speaking engagements. I’m still doing foundation stuff. I became a limited partner with the Atlanta Falcons, so I’m a part owner of that team. I’m working on my MBA right now at Emory University in Atlanta.
Tam-Star: I know you’ve worked with Athletes for Hope and you have your own charity, Homes for the Holidays. Why is it important to you to be involved in all these charities?
Warrick: When I lost my mom I was 18 years old. The city of Baton Rouge really stepped up and embraced my family and myself. When someone shows you what it means to give back I just think it’s ingrained in you after a while because you have experience from that.
I was able to start a program in 1997 when I was a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The head coach at that time was Tony Dungy and he challenged his players to get involved in the community — if you’re gonna live in this community you want to get involved and give back. I had to figure out what I wanted to do and I think that just really drove me to do something I can relate to and understand.
I started Homes for the Holidays, and in 2002 I started and worked on Family Foundation to assist single parents in becoming first time homeowners. We help with their down payment, but also with food, furniture, linens, garden tools, etc. We’ve been able to do this for the last 15 years in Tampa, Atlanta, Baton Rouge and Tallahassee consistently. We’re in the process of expanding to all NFL markets.
I’ve been driven because my mom’s dream was to own her own home and she never had that opportunity. So I’ve been able to live out my mom’s dream through other single parents in these communities.
I was approached years ago about being part of Athletes for Hope, an organization that wanted to talk about philanthropy, and give other athletes, celebrities or just the everyday person a way to be involved with giving back and getting involved in the community. The organization has 13 founding members – Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi, Jeff Gordon, all these high profile individuals to get involved for one common cause. It’s just been a real success. Similar to what we’re doing with Crown Royal right now with the Heroes Project,