Since we're in the middle of the NFL season right now, I thought you'd like to hear about a former NFL player that is giving back in a big way.
Warrick Dunn played 12 seasons in the NFL as a running back playing for the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1997-2008. While he was successful as a player, he's better known for what he's been doing off the field since 1997, and that work started as a result of a tragedy.
On January 7, 1993, just two days after celebrating his 18th birthday with his five siblings and his mother Betty Smothers, a single mother and 16-year veteran of the Baton Rouge police department, his entire life changed. Betty was working a second job as a security guard that day and as she was escorting a businesswoman to a bank to make a night deposit, they were ambushed by armed men and Betty was shot and killed. She was just 36 years old. Three men ultimately went to prison for her murder and two are on death row.
Warrick, reeling from the loss of his mother, was a senior in high school and had been discussing with her where he should go to college. His high school football career caught the eye of several universities: Florida State, Alabama and Texas, just to name a few, but after his mother's death, Warrick said all he could think about was taking care of his siblings, telling People Magazine:
"You have no choice but to mature. It wasn't just about going to school and playing football anymore. My life became about five people."
So he decided he would go to Louisiana State, so he could stay home and be a parent to his siblings. But, when he told his extended family of his plans, he was shocked by their reaction, saying:
"Family members and people from the neighborhood told me, 'Warrick, this is your life, your dreams. We'll take care of the kids while you're gone.'
His grandmother, then 56, moved into the house to take care of the kids, and Warrick decided he would instead go to Florida State. Even though it was 5 1/2 hours away, he figured he could come home as much as possible to support and guide his siblings as they grew up. His coach at Florida State said Warrick was extremely mature for his age and took his role as a parent seriously, seeking advice on raising the kids and driving home as much as possible to discipline them, spend time with them and keep them on the right path.
With the help of his grandmother, extended family, friends and the local community.....It worked beautifully. All of his siblings attended and graduated college and several have started their own businesses.
But it's what Warrick did in 1997 that has altered the lives of so many more. That year, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he decided to start a charity he called Home For The Holidays, in memory of his mother. Believing that families and children especially, thrive the most in a positive home environment, the charity wanted to provide one. So every year, working with a partnership with Habitat For Humanity, the charity chooses and presents single mothers with fully furnished homes, helping them with the down payments for those homes.
Even though he retired from the NFL in 2008, he continues his work. Warrick Dunn Charities does many things now, but Home for the Holidays is still their flagship program and on October 16th, he presented the 173rd single mom with her fully furnished new home, complete with a small memento that reminds him of his mother Betty....an apple pie, her favorite.
His sister, Summer, says their mother would be very proud of what he has done
"He's always been a sweetheart and always willing to give. Our mother would be speechless."
Warrick says he believes his mom is up there watching:
"She was compassionate, she was kind, she was helpful, thoughtful. She was everything I would want in my wife. I consider my mother to be superwoman. Every time I had over those keys there's a little piece of my mom and the things she wanted."