Warrick Dunn: The NFL player who helped build over 145 homes for single mothers to give them a better life

“I wanted to do something that was a little bit more impactful, not just handing out turkeys,” he said. “I wanted to do something that had a real impact in the community.”


Giving back is one of the most important attributes in a person. It is because of people who are lending a helping hand when someone needs it the most that this world is a better place.

One such person, who serves as an inspiration to many, is former professional NFL player Warrick Dunn.

His life wasn’t an easy one as he and his siblings lost their mother who was a single parent working two jobs in order to provide for her children.

Namely, Dunn’s mom, Betty Dunn Smothers, was a police officer in Louisiana. However, she worked as a security guard at the same time because she had always dreamed of owning a home and did all in her power to make that wish come true. Sadly, one night, as she and the store owner where she worked were headed to the bank to make a deposit when someone fired shots on them. While the store owner was injured, Smothers died at the scene, leaving her five children orphans.

“I never really had a childhood,” Dunn said in a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve never been able to go out and just go crazy, like most kids, because I grew up staying in the house a lot, baby-sitting.”

Dunn took all the care for his younger siblings and thanks to donations made by his mom’s colleagues, the family managed to raise a trust fund of over $200,000. That, and their mom’s life insurance helped the siblings stay together in a house in Baton Rouge with their grandmother.

“It’s something my mom always wanted, a house,” Dunn said at the time. “And it’s something we couldn’t afford.”

Following his mother’s passing, Dunn started playing football for the Florida State University and was chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft after graduation.

Dunn’s impressive career spanned 12 seasons.

The football player was challenged by his coach Tony Dungy to give back to the Florida community during his stay at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dunn accepted the challenge. From that moment on, giving back became his thing, it became something he centered his life around, and today, his Homes for the Holidays program has provided homes for over 200 single families over the years.

“The more I learned, we wanted to get into the business of giving people the potential to break their cycle of poverty,” Dunn explained. “Over the last 21 years, I’ve just learned a lot about different issues people face.”

Dunn’s program partners with various other organizations, financial institutions, development groups, and Habitat for Humanity, which helps build homes for disadvantaged families. “We’ve come up with services that can really help give families tools so they can have some stability long term, and with that is financial literacy, health and wellness, education attainment and workforce development and entrepreneurship,” Dunn explained.

So far, the program expended with three more, Count on Your Future, Sculpt, and Hearts for Community Service. These programs provide financial support for higher education for youngsters who are active volunteers in their community.

Dunn’s dream is to improve the quality of life for unprivileged families.

“It’s not just about home ownership. And it’s not just about the parents, it’s really more about the kids and their futures and trying to create a better society long term,” Dunn said. “I just want to be able to continue to wrap my arms around the communities that we’re in and really support them and help them grow and keep that stability.”

In the past, Dunn sought help from counselors to help him overcome the grief and accept the fact that his mom is no longer around. He even visited one of his mother’s killers in prison and said he forgave them for what they did, and that speaks of the fact that Warrick Dunn is without a doubt one of the greatest men there are. He truly has a heart of gold and we are certain he’s mom would have been proud of everything he is doing for others.

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