“Great player, even better man.”
It’s a cliche often used in sports, but there may be no person it applies to more than former FSU running back Warrick Dunn.
Not only did Dunn have a legendary college career (and in my completely biased opinion a Hall of Fame pro career), he wrote the book on how to be a good human despite the hardship and tragedy that was presented to him at a young age.
Dunn grew up the eldest of sixth siblings in a single-parent household. His mother, Betty Smothers, was a Baton Rouge police officer who was tragically gunned down when he was just 18 years old. While grieving the loss of his mother, Dunn was tasked with being the head of a household and raising his siblings. On top of that, he had to balance school and and being one of the most highly sought after recruits in Louisiana.
Through the turmoil, Dunn’s talent on the football field has allowed him the means to impact countless lives with his charitable causes, providing housing for 170 single-parent families to date, including the family of a young Deshaun Watson.
And while Dunn’s story is a testament that there is more to life than football, the way he played the game is how we all fell in love with number 28, and there is no shortage of things to talk about when looking back on his FSU career.
Dunn was a versatile weapon in the Florida State backfield from the moment he arrived on campus. His 511 rushing yards, 357 receiving and 10 total touchdowns earned him second-team freshman All-American honors and helped push the Charlie Ward led Seminoles to their first national championship. Dunn’s electric freshman season included one of the most memorable plays in FSU history when he torched the Gators for 140 yards receiving and the touchdown that silenced the Swamp and would become known as “Ward to Dunn.”
In his next season, Dunn would eclipse the thousand yard rushing mark for the first time in his career. *SPOILER* it wouldn’t be the last time.
Adding nine more touchdowns to his name, Dunn also collected more accolades after being named an All-American honorable mention by United Press International.
Following the biggest comeback (at the time) in NCAA history, Dunn and the Seminoles got another shot at rival Florida for the first time ever in the post season. Of course, Dunn rose to the occasion and showed that not only can he run and catch, he can go out and spin it too.
Dunn’s pass to ‘Omar Ellison in the running back’s home state of Louisiana helped will the ’Noles to victory and earned him MVP of the 1995 Sugar Bowl.
Dunn’s junior year would be his best statistically, garnering 1,242 yards rushing, averaging an astonishing 7.5 yards per carry, with 13 touchdowns. Dunn also hauled in three scores through the air leading to selections as both an honorable mention and third-team All-American.
His final year in the garnet and gold, Dunn would again surpass 1,000 yards rushing, also adding 355 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns, including a strike against Southern Miss that inscribed Dunn’s name into the record books as FSU’s touchdown leader. Dunn’s senior year would finally see him named a first team All-American.
Dunn was be selected 12th overall in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and would go on to play 12 seasons in the pros. He split his career between Tampa Bay and Atlanta and rushed for nearly 11,000 yards and 49 touchdowns in the process. (Again, put him in Canton).
Dunn became the first back in Florida State history to record three consecutive thousand yard rushing seasons, earning him as many first team All-ACC nods. His 3,959 rushing held him as FSU’s rushing leader until a kid by the name of Dalvin Cook make his way to Tallahassee.
He was elected to the FSU Football hall of fame in 2002 and is one of just 11 Seminoles to have his number retired.