Warrick Dunn played in the NFL for 12 seasons. His most impressive stat: He’s built 200 homes for single mothers. And he’s not done.

The Denver Gazette
The Denver Gazette
Josh Olalde on Unsplash

When Warrick Dunn was a sophomore in high school, he led his team to the state football championship. When he was a senior, his mother, who worked in law enforcement, was shot and killed, leaving Dunn to care for his five brothers and sisters.

It’s a lot of weight to put on a young man’s shoulders, but Dunn handled it well, still graduating from high school and earning a scholarship to Florida State.

Dunn had to grow up fast and take on adult responsibilities while still charting his own course.

He used his mother’s life insurance to fulfill one of his mother’s dreams: to buy a house for the family. And as a college freshman, he led Florida State to a national championship.

His effort paid off with an NFL contract, and in his first year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dunn not only continued to take care of his siblings, he began Warrick Dunn Charities to help single mothers achieve first-time homeownership.

He spent 12 years in the NFL, even though many thought he was too small. Perhaps being underrated drove him, or maybe it was the need to provide for his family and make his mother proud.

Whatever his motivations, Dunn achieved rare greatness as an athlete and as a human being.

Adversity comes in many forms, and often to the people we least likely expect. Dunn’s drive and example not only help single mothers but also inspire them to continue their upward journey. More than 90% of them are still in their homes, working hard, getting an education, taking care of their families and thankful for the start that Dunn gave each of them.

On the field, Dunn played cornerback, quarterback and running back. Since retiring, he has been playing give-back. Since 1997 he has helped more than 200 single parents and more than 500 dependents achieve first-time homeownership. He works closely with Habitat for Humanity to build and furnish the homes and provide down-payment assistance.

He also works with other professional athletes, guiding them to make a difference in their communities.

Perhaps most remarkable, Dunn later met with his mother’s killer and offered forgiveness. Seems life is too short to harbor hate and bitterness.

For each of us, we can face our challenges, great or small, with the same courage.

The Foundation for a Better Life promotes positive values to live by and pass along to others. Go to

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