Gaining closure, Dunn nears emotional milestones.
Nov 19, 2007, 10:15 AM 0
Less than three weeks ago,Falcons tailback Warrick Dunn sat face to face with a man convicted of killing his mother.He did so on a day Falcons players and coaches were at practice,trying to fix a broken team that had dropped to 1-6. While sitting in a room at the State Prison in Angola,La.,staring death-row inmate Kevan Brumfield in his eyes,Dunn was a stiff-arm away from the vigilante justice he'd thought about since Betty Smothers,a Baton Rouge,La.,police officer,was gunned down in a robbery outside of a bank in 1993.Dunn kept his composure and asked the unswered questions that kept him awake at night and recently led him to seek therapy."All I want to say right now is I went to talk to my mom's killer," Dunn said,in his normally stoic voice.Henri Broadway,who also was convicted of murder,did not want to meet with Dunn after initially saying he would.He,too,is on death row.West Paul,the getaway driver,was released from prison after serving 13-and a half years of a 25 years sentence.Paul struck a plea deal with prosecutors.Dunn,32,did not want to reveal any more of what transpired that day.He is writing an untitled book about his life that is scheduled to be released next summer.That prison encounter will be the first chapter.The anticipation of the meeting was at times an emotional labyrinth,Dunn said.Though he would not address it,the experience of confrnting Brumfield might have lifted a burden.Since that day,Dunn has played his two best games of the season.He rushed for 100 yardsin a 20-16 victory over San Francisco.He followed that with an 89 yard performance in a 20-13 win at Carolina last week.Now he stands just 58 yards away of amassing 10,000 rushing yards over his career.Only 21 other players in NFL history have made it those 30,000 feet.Arizona's Edgerrin James and Jacksonville's Fred Taylor,who surpassed the mark last week,are the only active players on the list.To reach the milestone today,when the Falcons play host to Tampa Bay,would be gratifying,Dunn said.The Buccaneers were the team that drafted him out of Florida State in 1997 and where he gained 4,200 of those yards.They're also the club that didn't want him anymore and allowed him to sign with the Falcons in 2002."I got drafted there,and I played with a couple guys that are still there," Dunn said,trying to downplay the matchup."It's a coincidence that it's happening." Said Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott,who split carries with Dunn for years: "There is no question that playing with him for five years,I knew,we knew,what he could do.We didn't think about 10,000 yards,but it shouldn't surprise anyone."I remember a game against Dallas and I was hurt.We were in Dallas and he had his first 200-yard game.It was one of those unbelievable games where he let everyone know,right there,that he was the real deal.He's so tough and so durable because he's found a way not to take a big hit.He's just got something to where he knows hen to get out of the way and how to protect himself.I've seen him play hurt,though." He's played hurt this season,too.The lower back surgery he had to epair a herniated disc just before the season was not painful,but it was restrictive.The lack of discomfort made Dunn think he had the leg strength and burst that he'd temporarily lost.Only now will he admit that he finally feels like his normal self.Only now,that he's in his 11th season and has mentioned that retirement is getting close,does he want to acknowledge some of what he's accomplished."To me,it says a lot from where I'm at today," Dunn said of lasting long enough to run for nearly six miles of yardage. "It says a lot." It's unknown if Dunn's teammates know about his visit to see the person who left him the man of the house with five other siblings at age 18.He is incredibly private,Dunn sais family members and close friends who know of his struggle and successes will be at the Georgia Dome today.If Dunn reaches the 10,000-yard mark against Tampa Bay,he's sure he'll share the moment with former Buc's teammates Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber in the immediate moment. There likely will be some time of public acknowledgement from the Falcons as well.When the final horn sounds,though,it will be his family members who Dunn will seek out.Only they really know what his journey has been like.The outsiders just know a footbal player who does countless acts of charity.Just this week he help four more single mothers move into houses as part of his Homes for the Holidays program.They also know him as the man that picked up Vickery Creek Middle School student Mary Henner for school in a limo a few weeks ago and spent the day with her and more than 1,000 other children,encouraging them to do the right thing.Less than 24 hours earlier,he had been confronting a man that he wished he could have told to do the same thing.