Atlanta Falcons: Former RB Warrick Dunn Talks Football, Ownership and More
I'm sure you all remember the 5'9'' running back out of Florida State who played in Atlanta for six seasons. Warrick Dunn was one of the great runners in NFL history, and he is still involved with the Falcons today.
After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, being elected to three Pro Bowls and rushing for over 10,000 yards in his career, Dunn overcame all the criticism about his size, and made a name for himself during his 12 NFL seasons.
A part owner of the franchise now, Dunn is still actively involved with football. But, football isn't the only aspect of his life that he's passionate about.
Dunn has his own foundation that works to provide opportunities to economically disadvantaged single parents. A true philanthropist, he is involved with multiple charities and volunteer organizations, and genuinely cares about those in his community.
I had the chance to speak with Warrick Dunn on Wednesday about a number of topics, including life after football, the business side of the game and even his current studies at Emory University.
Alex Welch is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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He's received multiple awards in the past recognizing all of his volunteer and charity work. Dunn has been given the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (seen above), the Bart Starr Award and the Giant Steps Award, which was given to him by Bill Clinton. I asked Warrick about how it feels to be recognized on such a high level.
"It's huge. Honestly early in my young life I didn’t know how to accept it or appreciate it. But over the years you are thankful you were recognized for giving back and changing the community. I feel honored that I was recognized."
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You may or may not know, but Dunn dealt with depression during his playing career. He sought counseling, and today encourages other NFL players to do the same.
Welch: "Do you feel like you were a better player after counseling?"
Dunn: "I think I was a better player after I received counseling. Do I think I could have gotten better? Probably, but I still had a pretty good career overall. When you’re holding so much inside, you step onto the football field and you’re able to release all that anger and frustration. A lot of guys take that route. But I enjoyed football, because I felt it was an opportunity to show my skills, and just to play a game like I did when I was a kid, I enjoyed it. I didn’t show a lot of emotion, but I wasn’t completely free. I would talk trash, and my mom would get onto to me about it. Things like that counseling definitely helped, and it took a lot off my heart."
He encourages players to seek counseling today. "There's nothing wrong with it, and you can better your life through it," says Dunn.
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Welch: "Who was one of your favorite athletes when you were growing up?"
Dunn: "Tony Dorsett. Living in Louisiana, the Saints were just terrible, so we used to get the Dallas Cowboys' games all the time. So, the Cowboys became my team. Tony Dorsett was one of the greatest runners I’ve ever watched, and I tried to pattern myself and model my game after him."
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Dunn still holds several records at FSU, including most rushing yards in single season and in a career. When asked about his involvement today, he sounded eager to someday get back there.
"I’m a supporter, I’m a lover. I bleed garnet and gold. Hopefully in time I can give back, but right now I’m not involved, I’m just a supporter. I’m just busy with my own life."
Dunn won a national championship at FSU in 1993, and it's clear the school still holds a place in his heart.
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Welch: "You're a part owner now of the Falcons, what's it like being on the business end?"
Dunn: "It's tremendous, it's a huge experience. Football, having played it, it's all about relationships. It's about who you know and who you meet, and what you do with those relationships. And after playing for years, I use that knowledge. This is something I cherish and I'm really enjoying it."
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Welch: "Going forward, how do you see their chances this year? Do they have a shot at the playoffs?"
Dunn: "Well, we have some work to do. We have to be consistent on both sides of the football. We need to get better at protecting Matt, so he's not running for his life. Just need to be a very consistent football team. But we can make a run. Anything can happen, you can get hot and really get it together."
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Welch: "You won Rookie of the Year, you were a three-time Pro Bowler and you rushed for over 10,000 yards. What was your biggest accomplishment in your mind?"
Dunn: "That I played 12 years. I think playing 12 years and rushing for 10,000 yards says a lot about a guy who is undersized and was only supposed to play for two or three years. To have a productive career and play at a high level, that speaks volumes for me I think career wise."
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Welch: "Do you still play any sports today? Do you think you've still got your football skills?"
Dunn: "I do what all old guys do now, I play a lot of golf. I just work on my golf game. My football game, I haven't worked out to say I can still play. I'm sure like anybody else we always think we can still do it, but I have no desire to play football."
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Welch: "You're going back to school to get your MBA, what made you decide to do that?"
Dunn: "Well when you're sitting in owners' meetings and all the billionaires and millionaires are using business lingo that's flying over your head, you want to get your business acumen up. And why did I choose Emory? Sometimes I just want to slam myself because it's so hard, there's so much information and I'm challenging myself to a level that's making me crazy. But I just want to be a better businessman overall, and this is no easy task."