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FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 5 - Warrick Dunn

28 - Warrick Dunn

Warrick Dunn, RB, 1993-1996

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2002

The smallest player on the countdown might have the biggest heart. Our next player still holds nearly every rushing mark in the Florida State record book, went on to tremendous NFL success and has never ceased to embody the spirit of humility and respect.

Warrick Dunn was one of the greatest players to ever wear the Garnet and Gold, but perhaps more importantly than that, he's also one of the best men to ever graduate from Florida State.

Of course FSU can't take all the credit for producing someone possessed of Dunn's virtue, the vast majority of Dunn's character can be attributed to the influence of his mother, Betty Smothers.

That's where Warrick Dunn's story starts.

Born on January 5, 1975 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dunn was the oldest of six children in a single-parent family. His mother was a police officer who took a second job working private security just to make ends meet.

As a child Warrick showed immediate potential on the football field. By the time he was a sophomore he was leading his high school to the first Louisiana 4A State Championship in its history. By the time he was a senior he was a highly-touted recruit receiving offers from major D-1 programs. 

The joy of that success was short-lived though. Betty Smothers was gunned down in an armed robbery while off-duty on January 7, 1993- just two days after Warrick's 18th birthday. He was now the head of his own household and would have to finish raising his five younger siblings.

It would have been easy to crack under the pressure of that moment, but Dunn thrived. He'd be the first to admit he didn't do it alone though.

'The minute that I found out his plight, when he had lost his mother in the middle of his senior year and I met him for the first time, I just immediately fell in love with him" Bobby Bowden told the New York Times back in 1997. "I wrote him a letter when he signed with us: 'Son, I'm going to do my best to take care of you, to give you the leadership, even more than the other players.' ''

With the city of Baton Rouge kicking into help support Dunn's family via a memorial fund and Bobby Bowden's paternalistic support in Tallahassee guiding him, Warrick blossomed.

He earned freshman All-American honors on the Seminoles' 1993 National Championship team after rushing for 511 yards and four touchdowns with a 7.5 yard average. Then he went on to assault the Florida State record books, rushing for over 1,000 yards each of the next three seasons and finishing with the top career rushing mark in school history (3959) and three of the top five single season rushing performances ever at FSU.

Dunn's 1242 yards in 1995 are still the most in Florida State history, as are his 21 career 100+ yard games. His 37 career rushing touchdowns are second all-time. But Dunn was also quite proficient catching the ball as well, in his four years as a Seminole he hauled in 132 receptions for 1314 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dunn's overall total of 49 touchdowns is the most in school history.

But that doesn't capture it all either. While Warrick Dunn was at FSU the Seminoles were absolutely dominant. Winning a national title in 1993 and narrowly missing a second one in 1996. Bowden himself once told Malcolm Moran, ''The Warrick Dunn era is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me."

Dunn became a crowd favorite in Tallahassee- and everywhere else he played- almost instantly, to this day he's still the all-time favorite Seminole of many Florida State fans. At 5-9 180 he was almost always the smallest guy on the field and almost always the most electrifying.

He was drafted 12th overall by the Buccaneers in 1997 and played a 12 year career in Tampa and Atlanta that saw him run for over 10,000 yards. 

But Dunn's true legacy is much more than football. It all ties back to that fateful January night in 1993 when Warrick lost his mother. That moment and those feelings have lived on with him for the past 20 years. The grief he felt, the burden his mother endured that required her to work two jobs in the first place and the support he and his siblings received in their hour of need inspired Dunn.

Warrick Dunn used his life experiences and the platform football gave him to help others in similar situations rise up too. Plenty of athletes form foundations, talk about charity or like spout off about their religious beliefs. Warrick Dunn quite literally has put his money where his mouth is. 

Since Dunn's rookie season in 1997, his foundation has built 127 houses for single parents, helping 344 children in the process. Each house comes furnished and ready to live in, the charity is called "Home for the Holidays."

Doing this reminds Dunn of his mother.

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Warrick Dunn is more than deserving of his place as one of the top five Seminoles of all-time simply based on merit alone. Based on what Dunn accomplished on the field there's no denying he's one the greatest to ever wear Garnet and Gold. But there's something else about him too. 

When Seminole fans like to think of the quintessential Bobby Bowden player, a talented young man that lives up to the ideals Bowden embodied, you can't find a better example than Warrick Dunn.

 

Next on the countdown is the greatest receiver in Florida State history...

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