Former NFL Star Visits Colgate; Offers Inspirational Message

Katherine Byrns

FL running back Warrick Dunn, who was a three-time Pro Bowler and ran for 10,967 yards in his 12-year career with the Falcons and Buccaneers, shared his inspirational story in a lecture hosted by Brothers and ALANA.

At the start of the lecture, Dunn may have appeared as merely a successful athlete, but by the end, he had revealed himself to be not only an accomplished football player, but also a philanthropist who was motivated by the significant adversity he had overcome throughout his life. When Dunn was only 18, his mother, who was a police officer, was ambushed and murdered by armed robbers while escorting a businesswoman to make a night deposit. Not only did he lose whom he describes to be his “best friend” that day, but he also had to become the sole caregiver for his siblings, as his mother was a single parent.

Although Dunn was severely shaken by this incident, he was consequently moved by the situation to help others in need.

“My mother was everything to me,” Dunn said. “Part of me died when she died, but I tried to take a tragedy and turn it into something positive.”

What resulted from this tragedy was his idea to start the organization “Homes for the Holidays,” which works to assist single parents become first-time homeowners. He was inspired to start such an organization because it had always been his mother’s dream to own a home. The organization is currently in its thirteenth year and has provided homes to 93 single parents.

And so, despite his success as a football player, Dunn emphasized that his propensity and desire to help others is what truly drives him.

“My life isn’t just about athletics,” Dunn said. “My life is really defined by how I handled the situation when I lost my mom. We will all have a moment where we define ourselves and make a decision about what to do with our lives, and I realized I was meant to help others.”

Assistant Dean of Multicultural Affairs Thomas Cruz-Soto believes that Dunn had a meaningful message and agreed that students should be sure to not only focus on school and athletics, but also community service.

“Men at Colgate do not do enough community services and do not see the need to despite all the blessings that they have benefited from in order to receive a Colgate education. I believe hearing stories like Warrick Dunn’s can spark that interest in men and women to be more than just a star athlete or a straight A student, but to be a more complete man or women and give back to those in need.”

After sharing his story, Dunn accepted several questions from the audience, and from the meaningful dialogue, it was apparent that he had affected students and faculty alike.

“Warrick was pretty straight forward with what he had to say,” senior Max Counter said. “Life is difficult, it will throw challenges your way, and you will have to buckle down and work hard if you want to make it through. This lecture was different than most I’ve attended at Colgate because the message wasn’t complicated or highly intellectualized. His life embodies the quintessential American success story. We live in a society that often tries to stigmatize single parents. I admire his work simply because he is trying to reverse this trend.”