Warrick Dunn honored

Former Florida State standout Warrick Dunn has been awarded with the Jefferson Award, one of the nation’s top honors for community service and volunteerism.

How big is this award?

Past recipients include Gen. Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Peyton Manning.

That's pretty good company.

Dunn, a five-time Pro Bowl running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, will join 16 other recipients from around the country at a Washington, D.C., gala June 21 to receive the award, known as the “Nobel Prize for Public Service.” Dunn was selected to receive the Jefferson Award in the category Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy.

“What Warrick Dunn has accomplished in his lifetime is nothing short of extraordinary," said Sam Beard, founder and president of the American Institute for Public Service and The Jefferson Awards, in a prepared statement. "He is the consummate team player, on and off the football field, first taking care of his family after the untimely death of his mother and later taking care of the communities closest to his heart."

From the release:

Dunn, a limited partner of the Atlanta Falcons, starred at Florida State University and was the 12th overall selection by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 1997 NFL draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in five seasons (1997-2001) with the Bucs before moving on to Atlanta, where he added three more Pro Bowl seasons in six years (2002-07) with the Falcons. He capped his career with one more season in Tampa Bay. For his career, Dunn ranks 19th all-time in rushing yards with 10,967 and also totaled 4,339 receiving yards as one of the best dual-threat running backs in NFL history -- he is one of only six backs in NFL history to top 10,000 yards and 500 receptions.

Dunn, the oldest of six children, experienced the struggles of life in a single-parent family. His mother, Betty Smothers, was a City of Baton Rouge (La.) police officer who often worked security shifts to provide for her family. It was always her goal to experience the American dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. Before she could realize her dream, she was gunned down in an armed robbery during an off-duty shift, leaving 18-year-old Dunn to care for his five siblings. Dunn’s dedication to charity was born as a result of the outpouring of support his family received from the Baton Rouge community during this tragic time.

Dunn started the Homes for the Holidays program in 1997 during his rookie season in the NFL to honor his late mother’s dream of homeownership. In 2002, he established the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation as a way to grow programs and services for single-parent families. Through his charitable efforts, Dunn has rewarded over 100 single-parent families in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee and Tampa, Fla., for achieving the American dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. The Homes for the Holidays program has contributed more than $2 million in home furnishings with furniture provided by Aaron’s, Inc., and $515,000 in down payment assistance, since 1997.

“I am honored to receive this award from All Stars Helping Kids and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service selection committee, and I believe it is a testament to the values instilled in me by my mother,” Dunn said. “Without her strength and determination as an example growing up, I would not have been able to achieve my goals in life and on the football field. I hope that other athletes in my position will see the value of being positive role models to inspire others.”