In 1993, two days after Warrick Dunn’s 18th birthday, his mother, an off-duty police officer, was murdered while trying to stop an armed robbery. Dunn, who played 12 years in the NFL for the Buccaneers and Falcons, is now 44 years old and admits he still grapples with the fallout of losing his mom.
Dunn told Dan Le Batard on ESPN that he’d done a lot of good inspired by his mother, by starting Warrick Dunn Charities, which has helped more than 100 single parents buy homes for their families — something Dunn’s own single mother was saving to do when she died.
“This is what my mom would have wanted. She would have wanted this experience,” Dunn said.
But Dunn said that while he was proud of the work he was doing both on and off the field, he wasn’t enjoying his life. And it was only long after his mother died, when he began to seek therapy, that he started finding joy in life again.
“I never talked. I never smiled,” he said. “I just happened to move to Atlanta, hear a teammate talk about another guy going to counseling. . . . I thought, ‘Maybe I need to do that for myself.'”
Dunn described counseling as difficult at first, but ultimately putting him in a position where he could visit one of the men convicted of killing his mother to offer forgiveness.
“I started talking, and the first nine months I never looked my counselor in the eye,” Dunn said. “But once I got comfortable and was able to express myself, I was able to look her in the eye, have conversations with her, and over the years I got to the point where I was putting the pieces of my life back together and I got to the point where I wanted to go and sit with the guy who shot and killed my mom. I wanted to talk to him because I wanted to take that power back and create more peace in my life.”
Dunn visited Kevan Brumfield, who was convicted of the murder, on Louisiana’s death row. Although Dunn was hoping Brumfield would show remorse, that didn’t happen. Dunn forgave him anyway.
“He actually said, ‘It wasn’t me.’ I said, ‘I don’t care who it is, I just want to come here and say I forgive you. You’ve taken so much of my life away from me that I want back,'” Dunn said. “After that I just felt like I took my life back.”
Dunn has helped many people with his charity, and he may help more by spreading the message that therapy can help.