When all the chips on Brian Dunlap's shoulders add up, they could equal a steal for the Harvard Crimson.
The Natick High senior wide receiver made public his verbal commitment to Harvard for the 2015 season this afternoon, while playing with his Redhawks teammates in an Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 Regional tournament at Oliver Ames High School (a tournament they went on to win).
— natickfootball (@natickfootball) July 20, 2014
The 6-foot Dunlap chose Harvard over offers from Holy Cross and New Hampshire.
"They handle everything the exact right way," Dunlap said of Harvard. "They’re world class over there, and everything they do is just the way that I want it to be done."
Early on in his high school career, Dunlap was considered the jewel of Massachusetts' 2015 recruiting class, becoming the first sophomore ever to earn ESPN Boston All-State honors in 2012 after catching 86 passes for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns, leading the Redhawks to the MIAA Division 2A Super Bowl. By the end of his sophomore season, working with legendary quarterback Troy Flutie (now of Boston College), Dunlap had already accumulated 35 touchdowns, 155 catches and 2,742 receiving yards.
But just as he seemed on the verge of blowing up on the recruiting trail, injuries derailed those plans. A Lisfranc fracture on his left foot last August, suffered in the first scrimmage of the preseason, wiped out his entire junior season.
Whatever Division 1 FBS interest there was had cooled over the offseason. Dunlap said he doesn't take it personally, but he doesn't forget either.
"Obviously, I understand that. I understand why schools would be nervous [about] someone who’s injured," he said. "Harvard just really showed how much they cared, and that’s pretty special. Not a lot of programs are like that.
"I don’t want to hold any grudges, but there’s obviously stuff that I keep in the back of my mind when I’m training or playing or anything like that. Obviously, I remember stuff, little things . . . I don’t want to go into it, I respect every college coach and I understand why they do what they do, but obviously I have chips on my shoulders."
As for Harvard, the interest never waned. Offensive coordinator Joel Lamb -- a Natick resident, and the son of Hall of Fame former Natick coach Tom Lamb -- kept in close contact throughout the process.
"They treat all of their players and recruits like they would treat their own sons," Dunlap said. "That means the world to me, especially [as] somebody who got hurt, I know that no matter what they’ll always be there for me and care for me even if I get hurt.
"The coaching staff over there has been unbelievable, throughout the whole recovery. Even when I was hurt, Joel Lamb, the offensive coordinator, kept in contact with me. I know he really cares for me, and that means the world to me and my parents. They have an amazing tradition over there, a winning program. I couldn’t be more excited with the opportunity."
With National Letter of Intent Signing Day still seven months away, there remains the distinct possibility some higher-profile late interest could arrive. But Dunlap says he is whole-heartedly committed to the Crimson, no matter what the future entails.
"I’m a man of my word. Harvard’s treated me so well that I would never want to do something like that to them," Dunlap said. "They don’t deserve that. They’ve treated me so well that that’s not an option."