Warrick Dunn was a great football player. He played at Florida State University and then for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. He received many prestigious awards as a player including NFL Offensive Rookie of the year in 1997 and three times he was selected for the Pro Bowl. His resume for achievement is impressive, except none of his exploits on the gridiron are what makes him great. His desire to give to help others less fortunate is what defines him as a champion.
Warrick’s life was not easy. In fact, it took a dramatic turn when he was a Senior in High School. His mom, while working as an off-duty police officer, escorting a businesswoman to a bank to make a night deposit, was ambushed and killed by armed robbers. Warrick had just turned eighteen only two days before his mom’s death. The men who committed the murder were arrested. Two of the three are on death row in Louisiana. As a way of processing this tragedy, Warrick arranged to meet one of the men charged with his mom’s death. He described the meeting beautifully in his book, Running For My Life. It is gut-wrenching to read and he gives great insight into what makes him so special. Warrick’s mom had always dreamed of owning a house. So, when he became an NFL star, he decided to use his fame and fortune to help single parents achieve something his mom was never able to achieve – to own their own home.
While Warrick was in the NFL he began a charity called Homes for the Holidays. The HFTH program, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, helps provide a fully furnished house to single parents. Quietly with little media attention, Dunn has given away 145 homes to single-parent-families through his charity. He believes by providing families with a positive home environment, children can thrive educationally, socially and economically.
And that is what ultimately makes Warrick Dunn great to me. Many pursue success. Dunn pursues significance. He wants to insure he is giving back to those who have been less fortunate. This level of living is not reserved for just the superstar. It is within the grasp of people like you and me.
There are all kinds of people who need a champion in their life. Maybe you can’t buy a house for someone, but you can buy them a breakfast. Or you can help them network with some of your connections in their pursuit of a decent paying job. Or you can offer an encouraging word to them when they are down and out.
Recently I was with my grandchildren at an indoor amusement center. And, guess who walked in? It was my first meeting with the great football player/humanitarian. And wouldn’t you know it….he was as kind and gracious in person as you would expect. I had the privilege of telling him thanks for being such a great example through his generosity for others. He seemed a little embarrassed of the praise.
Living to help others is what makes life really special. The saddest lives are the ones that exist only for themselves. Real champions are the ones who have found a way to give back to those who are less fortunate. I want my life to be a “big life”. I want to know I made a little dent for good in this world. Warrick Dunn is a great example. He is a champion. And you and I can be one too.