Since retiring in 2009, Warrick Dunn has been pretty busy. In addition to owning a stake in the Atlanta Falcons, he has continued to develop the Warrick Dunn Foundation and the Homes for the Holidays program. I knew that he had a solid reputation, but after digging a little deeper I realized that he truly is one of the NFL’s good guys. Since the tragic passing of his mother when he was just 18, it has not been an easy road for Dunn. He exudes a positive attitude and has dedicated his life to honoring the memory of his mother through some amazing charity work. I got to spend 15 good minutes with him to talk a little football and about his latest endeavor – The Crown Royal Heroes Project.
It’s obvious that your mother had a positive influence on your life and you have chosen charities that honor her legacy. What attracted you to the Crown Royals Heroes project?
There’s a lot of synergy when you think about recognizing the heroes in the community. The Crown Royal Heroes Project honors police officers, fire fighters and military personal. I think that speaks volumes because a lot of times my mom sacrificed her life to protect the great people of Baton Rouge. Firefighters, police officers, and military personal across this country do that every day so that we are able to walk out and really enjoy life. I think that it is a good for me to be a part of this with Crown Royal. I’ll be in Dallas this weekend at the Giants/Cowboys game in the East Plaza from 5 to 7 PM. We want fans to come out to stuff purple Crown Royal bags to send over to the troops. For every purple bag that is stuffed, Crown Royal is going to step up and donate $10 to the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund. It’s something that is definitely near and dear to my heart. Also, if you come you will get to see Country Music star Rodney Atkins perform a free concert. Of course, they are going to have some spirits and we all like the Crown Royal spirits. But if you drink… don’t drive. Of course we will only be serving people 21 years or older and we ask that you be responsible when you are drinking. Crown Royal is really stepping up and going above and beyond to really recognize the people who do the dirty work and sacrificing their lives. There aren’t too many jobs that you have to sacrifice your life on a consistent basis and police officers, firefighters and military personal do that consistently. And to the troops that are starting to come home now, thank you and I salute all that you have done for our country.
Is there any way that our readers can help out the Crown Royal Hero Project?
Yes, they can go to the Crown Royal Facebook to support all of our efforts. If you can’t make it to Dallas, make it over to the Facebook page.
You played a good chunk of your career for Tony Dungy and I know he wrote the forward to your book. Would you consider him a mentor of yours?
All day, all day. I mean he is a great human being and person. He was a guy who treated you like a man, but he always expected you to be at your best on the football field. He didn’t care about your background, or where you came from. He just wanted guys who played hard, and if you had some issues he would challenge you to be a better person. He’s one of those guys that I look up to and I respect. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think the Homes for the Holidays or the Warrick Dunn Foundation would even be around because he challenged me as a rookie to get involved in the community. I owe him a lot and when he wrote the forward in my book it spoke volumes about how lucky I am to have a guy like that in my life.
In your book ‘Running for my life’ – you were not afraid to address the concussion issue. Do you think the NFL should concentrate on the issue of depression, especially as it is often a symptom of post-concussion syndrome?
I think they are doing a lot. Concussions are a huge issue right now and the NFL is focusing on that. I do know that teams are giving guys opportunities to get the counseling that they need. A lot of guys need it after they are done with the game of football, as I have experienced. You don’t have those highs from playing football games on Sunday, so it is kind of hard to match in every day life. When you play the game for so many years and you can’t play anymore, I think that is a struggle for a lot of guys. I think the NFL has taken the first steps at tackling a bunch of issues, but you can only tackle one at a time. I think they are integrating counseling for players and they have been doing a good job of that now.
As a part owner of the Falcons, has it been an easy adjustment to becoming part of ‘management’?
It was always an adjustment, especially with the lockout. I was torn, I have an investment with the Falcons but I played football for twelve years. My loyalty is going to go to the players, but I wanted both sides to get the best deal possible and I think that was the case. It was definitely an adjustment going from one side to the other but now I think more about how people are going to view me. For myself I am just trying to be a better person overall, but also I am just trying to move on to the next phase of life. I am done with football and I enjoyed it. I have no desire to play, and I am just trying to be a businessman.
Would you have gone for it on fourth and one?
Stop it… it is over with. We lost it. We lost that game. It’s a tough call. Coach Smith went with the history data. As you know some coaches use a lot of data. Me personally, that’s a tough call. If you don’t get it, they can kick a field goal to win the game and that’s pretty much what happened. As you look back now, you can say ‘punt the football and play good defense’. The defense was playing well but at that particular time in the game you have to believe that you can get a foot. So I’m not knocking the call, it’s a tough call in that situation.
In terms of the Packers, they are starting to knock on the 16-0 door. As a Patriots fan I always thought they would have been better off losing regular season game on the way to the Super bowl in 2007. Do you feel that a team should put the proverbial ‘pedal to the metal’ to go 16-0, or do you think they should pull back a little bit?
Nah, Do it. Make history. Come on, that’s history! How many times has that happened? That’s an amazing feat and there is going to be a Super Bowl winner every year but to be one of the few teams that can go 16-0… people are going to remember the Patriots team. They are going to remember them because that was a great football team. I think what the Packers are doing though; these guys are exceptional in the way they are winning games. They are not winning close games and nail biters, a majority of their victories they are winning convincingly. It’s that impressive.
When you played for Jon Gruden, did he ever refer to your arms as a ‘big ol set of pipes’?
No, I was a small frail guy. I played for Gruden for one year and he was a good guy. I think I remember that NFL Films piece and he was talking about Michael Pittman who came to Tampa Bay after me.
Well, thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about all of the cool stuff you are doing to honor your Mother’s memory.
No problem, and just as a reminder we want fans to come out to support the Crown Royal Heroes Project at Cowboy Stadium on Sunday December 11th. Help stuff some purple Crown Royal bags to send over to the troops. As I mentioned earlier, for every bag that is stuffed, Crown Royal will donate $10 to the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund.