Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn no longer tallies rushing yards. Instead, he’s adding up the number of single parents he’s assisted around the Southeast. Inspired by his mother, Warrick created the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation in 2002 to assist economically disadvantaged single moms and dads in becoming home-owners through supplemental mortgages. The organization, which complements the successful efforts of Habitat for Humanity, works with individuals who have already demonstrated a commitment to achieve financial independence and stability. Warrick’s mother, Betty Smothers, was a Baton Rouge police officer and single parent who dreamed of owning her own home. She was murdered when Warrick, the oldest of six children was 18.
Warrick holds several Florida State University rushing records and was selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, 12th pick overall, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons, where his rushing yards ranked third in the franchise’s history. Warrick was named to three Pro Bowl teams during his 11-year career and received the NFL’s inaugural Home Depot Award, which recognizes players who are making a positive impact in their local communities through philanthropy. He became a minority owner of the Falcons in 2009.
During his rookie season in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dunn realized the impact he could make through a positive image and community involvement and he established the Homes for the Holidays program. Since 1997, Homes for the Holidays has rewarded single parents and children who have reached the American Dream of first-time homeownership in Atlanta, GA, Baton Rouge, LA, Tampa and Tallahassee, FA. Warrick remembers clearly, after his mother died, how he was surrounded by the love of family, friends and coaches–and that drives him to improve the communities he’s called home. He says he feels his mother’s presence every time he walks a family through their new house. “My mother would be proud to know that so many families have been assisted in realizing the American dream,” he says. “We’re giving these single parents an opportunity to be successful. They still have to do the work, but we’re helping them to take the next step.”