We recruited Warrick while he was a senior at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On...


We recruited Warrick while he was a senior at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On January 7, 1993 -- about a month before Warrick signed a scholarship to play football at Florida State -- his mother was murdered while escorting a grocery store manager to a bank to make a night deposit. Betty Dunn Somers, a corporal in the Baton Rouge police department, was thirty-six. Two days after his eighteenth birthday, Warrick and his grandmother were left to raise his five siblings. After Warrick left for college, his brothers and sisters moved in with his grandmother, Willie Wheeler. I was not sure how Warrick would react to being away from his family. He was still dealing with the grief of losing his mother. But Warrick became a roommate with Charlie Ward, our quarterback, and that was the best thing that could have happened to Warrick. Both were very quiet and very much alike. Charlie is from Thomasville, Georgia, which is just across the state line from Tallahassee, and his parents adopted Warrick in many ways. Warrick was a quarterback and a defensive back in high school. We recruited him to play defense, but Warrick wanted to play running back. He was pretty small, only about five feet nine inches and 173 pounds, and we weren't sure he could take the punishment of running the ball some twenty times a game. But his mother wanted him to attend Florida State, so he was going to sign a national letter of intent to play for us. "Warrick, we have all the running backs we can take," I told him. "If you come to Florida State, you have to play defense. Will you do that?" "Yes, Coach Bowden," Warrick told me. "But will you promise me you will at least give me a chance to play running back?" "I'll give you a chance to run the ball," I said. "But if it comes down to it, you have to agree to play defense." We opened preseason camp in August 1993, and Warrick was playing defense. Before one of our scrimmages, Warrick came to me and reminded me of my promise to let him try out at running back. So we put him on offense, and no one could tackle him. After that day, Warrick was a running back for the rest of his career, and I am not sure we ever had a better runner at Florida State. Warrick will always be one of my favorite players. From time to time, he came to my office and talked about one of his brothers or sisters getting into trouble or having problems in school. "Coach, what should I do?" he asked me. I always told him to go home and get it straightened out. He drove all the way to Baton Rouge, worked things out with his family, and then came back to Florida State. It was just so much for a nineteen-year-old boy to handle, but Warrick never complained and helped his grandmother raise his brothers and sisters well. After Warrick left Florida State, he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons and became one of the NFL's best running backs. More important, he became one of the NFL's best ambassadors. He established the Warrick Dunn Foundation and Homes for the Holidays, which have provided financial assistance for many single mothers to buy houses for their families. He was named NFL Man of the Year and was honored by former president Bill Clinton for his charitable work. I do not know if I have ever been more proud of one of my former players. I have said this many times: Florida State would never have won the 1993 national championship without Warrick. It was almost as if Warrick was the missing piece to the puzzle.

Partial excerpt from "Called to Coach." Read the rest of the excerpt at ESPN Book excerpt: Dunn the key