Former NFL standout Warrick Dunn is someone every parent would want his or her kids to look up to. Yes, he was a college and NFL star, but he has accomplished much more off the field then he ever did on it. Last month, my kids and I mailed an old-school Tampa Bay Buccaneers mini-helmet to Warrick Dunn in care of his foundation. It came back in less than a month and the signature looks fantastic. Dunn doesn’t have the best John Hancock in the world, but the autograph on the helmet is big and bold and you can tell he took his time with it.
His name still graces the record books multiple times at Florida State, where he led his team to the 1993 National Championship. Most notable would be his being credited for the most rushing yards in school history with 3,959. He also accomplished a feat no other Seminole has ever has: he rushed for 1,000 yards for three consecutive years. That will earn a few tomahawk chops. His jersey has been retired and sent up to the rafters to join the company of FSU legends Fred Biletnikoff, Charlie Ward, and Deion Sanders, to name a few.
Showing his versatility as an all-around athlete, Dunn also was a star on the track & field team. He was a sprinter all four years.
After leaving Tallahassee, he was drafted in the first round, playing his first five years in Tampa Bay, and taking home the AP Rookie of the Year award. He then played for Atlanta and briefly returned to Tampa Bay. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
The charity side of Warrick Dunn is what really marks this man as remarkable. Tragedy struck early in Dunn’s life as his mother Betty Smothers was ambushed and killed while working security, escorting another woman to a bank to make a deposit. Dunn had just turned 18 and suddenly became responsible for raising his five brothers and sisters at a time of huge loss. Two of the men convicted are currently on death row.
The community of Baton Rouge banded together and raised money for a memorial fund to aid the family. This would be the impetus for a life lived for others. Encouraged and mentored by Bucs coach Tony Dungy, Dunn saw first hand the impact he could have by getting involved in his community. Dunn started the Homes for the Holidays program that provides opportunities for single-parent families like the one he was raised in. To continue with this program Dunn started the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation in 2002. The programs have helped more than 99 families and 265 children gain their first home. He has expanded his charity from Tampa Bay to Atlanta to Talahassee to Baton Rouge.
Dunn has been somewhat of a tough autograph over the years but has been signing frequently from his Foundation address below. It is always a good idea to include a donation to the cause that has helped out so many underprivileged families.
How is Roger Craig not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? The high kneed, wide-eyed back seemed to always find the hole. He was selected as a member of the All-Decade team and is the only player in that exclusive club to not have a bust (yet) in Canton. Craig was the first player to have 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving in the same year. He made it to the playoffs all 11 years and scored three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. There aren’t many reasons he shouldn’t make the Hall. He was so versatile in the West Coast offense that he may have hurt his chances; he was an All Pro as a fullback and a halfback. His one knock is that he never led the league in rushing. But he never had to in that offense. He provided a killer combination of rushing and receiving for the 49ers. Craig was named as one of the 15 finalists for the 2010 Hall of Fame but will still have to wait at least another year for that anticipated phone call.
This three-time Super Bowl champion has been hit or miss over the years whem it comes to signing via the mail. He was one of the best for a number of years and then would sign for a donation. Craig signed our 49ers license plate and picture in under a month. He personalized both, which looks great written across the license plate.
Craig still keeps in shape these days by running marathons. At 49 years old, he still logs 40 miles a week. He also plays a lot of charity golf tournaments and is going to be the spokesman for the World Fishing Network.
George Blanda was an icon of Pro Football playing in four different decades, a streak of 26 seasons. No one has ever matched that and I’m guessing that no one will. Blanda passed on Sept. 27, 2010 and will be missed by both the football and autograph-collecting community. He signed everything you sent to him.
Blanda played for the Bears, Colts, Oilers and Raiders. He was primarily a quarterback and placekicker and even played linebacker on defense. He was one of the big stars of the AFL, winning the championship three times. He once passed for seven touchdowns in the same game. He was also named as a member of the AFL All Time Team. His best moments came as the QB for the Raiders though, at the ripe old age of 43. Blanda led 5 last–second comebacks that resulted in 4 wins and a tie. SCM
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