Some athletes make far bigger contributions off the field than they do on it. Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn is one of those individuals. On the field, Dunn is a speedy, elusive back who last season rushed for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. He's tough, team-oriented and tenacious. Off the field, Dunn is a humanitarian, a person dedicated to making life better for others.
Dunn should not be selected as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year because he's a great player and a good guy. He should earn the award because he's an example of what every athlete should aspire to be.
Dunn was born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, and Hurricane Katrina hit home for him. Though he was thousands of miles away, Dunn decided to do something to really help the victims. He challenged each NFL player to donate $5,000 to the relief effort. He was passionate, persistent (he personally called a bunch of players) and, as usual, he was successful. Dunn had helped raise millions for the victims.
It wasn't the first time Dunn made a difference in people's lives. When he was 18, his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer, was killed in the line of duty. With the help of his grandmother, Dunn raised his five siblings and financially supported them once he reached the NFL. After establishing the Warrick Dunn Foundation -- in which he is not a mere figurehead -- Dunn started a program called Homes for the Holidays, which has helped single mothers buy 52 houses over the last eight years. In 2004, the NFL named Dunn as its Walter Payton Man of the Year. Last summer Dunn showed his support for U.S. troops by taking part in a 10-day tour of Iraq.
Each of Dunn's acts are significant. Together they tell the story of a remarkable individual. Warrick Dunn is much more than just a star football player. He's a tireless advocate for the less fortunate and a person who has used his success and influence for the greater good. He's entertaining on the field and lends a helping hand off of it without hesitation. For that he should be Sportsman of the Year.