'Looking for excitement.' Former FSU great Warrick Dunn believes in football coach Mike Norvell

·5 min read

Warrick Dunn is looking for excitement, too.

Florida State football is less than two weeks away from its season-opener against Duquesne at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Seminoles are entering their third year  under coach Mike Norvell, who has praised his team's growth and competitiveness this preseason.

FSU's last winning season was in 2017.

"I think it's important for fans to know we are looking for excitement, right? We all want to get back to how things were back in the day," Dunn said Saturday during his visit to Tallahassee. "I think coach (Norvell) is building that, getting the right environment, trying to get the right players. But it still comes down to players executing on the field.

"Everybody has to do their part for them to be successful. You have to have a leader at the top, and coach Norvell is that guy."


More: 'He's our guy': FSU President Richard McCullough believes in football coach Mike Norvell

More: A year later: For Ann Bowden, memories of legendary coach Bobby Bowden are in every corner

More: 'Continuing to push': FSU fans buying into Mike Norvell, enhancements to Doak Campbell

'Tackle Your Testing'

Dunn, 47 - the former heralded FSU and NFL running back - was the featured guest for the first Quest Diagnostics 'Tackle Your Testing' event with Bond Community Health Center at Jack McLean Park Saturday.

The event, which provided free testing, was aimed to address critical health concerns that may have gone undetected during the pandemic. Dunn, who made the drive from his Atlanta residence, embraced the opportunity to talk about the importance of diagnostic testing.

There were about 700 attendees and 200 diagnostic testing services delivered to the community, according to event officials.

"We want to get people to come out and not be afraid to take that step and take advantage of the opportunity to learn about their health," Dunn said.

Dunn  - personable and approachable - also signed autographs, posed for photos and, of course, talked FSU football.

Following Saturday's event, he attended a special get-together at the home of FSU President Richard McCullough, who bestowed Dunn a prestigious Torch Award (Mores). This award honors friends of the university who symbolize the character, customs and traditions of FSU and have contributed significantly to its mission.

Dunn also attended FSU's scrimmage, with Norvell saying, "I do believe it's a team that they really love to compete."

Dunn, one of the most recognized and respected names in FSU history, was a freshman on the Seminoles' first national championship team in 1993. Remaining close to the program over the years, Dunn has represented athletics and the university in the highest light.

And, like the Seminole Nation, Dunn is hopeful that FSU football can return to ACC and national prominence. Following its opener against FCS Duquesne, FSU meets LSU in New Orleans on Labor Day weekend.

"I know this is year three for him (Norvell),  I know everyone is expecting a big turn, a big change,"  Dunn said.

"LSU is going to be a huge test out of the gate. If we can win that game, be in the game, if we happen to be on the other side of it, lose at the end, that should tell you something about this team.

"I expect and I would like to see them get back to the basics of football and get back to dominating."

Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn celebrated presenting his 200th fully furnished home to Fellicia Miller and her son, Raymond Mouton, in Los Angeles just miles from where Super Bowl 56 is set to happen Sunday.
Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn celebrated presenting his 200th fully furnished home to Fellicia Miller and her son, Raymond Mouton, in Los Angeles just miles from where Super Bowl 56 is set to happen Sunday.

Staying busy

Inspired by his mother and own upbringing, Dunn continues to make a difference through his Homes for the Holidays program, which is celebrating 25 years. The program provides single-parent families with home furnishings and down payment assistance.

Since 1997, HFTH has furnished more than 200 homes, served 26 markets, including Tallahassee, and given more than $990,000 in down payment assistance.

Dunn, who has shown dignity and empathy to those in need, is also tackling the affordable housing crisis.

Two years ago he started WD Communities, teaming up with the city of Augusta, Georgia, to build a community of affordable homes. Dunn said he's also in discussions with officials in the Atlanta area to expand his program.

"We are hoping this is a model that we can take to other cities and to help different communities," Dunn said. "I've been focusing my efforts on educating families and learning more about them at the same time."

Dunn, of course, also looking forward to cheering on his Seminoles this season.  His journey at FSU remains close to his heart. And is one of the program's most inspirational stories.

To this day, Dunn credits his mother - Baton Rouge police Cpl. Betty Smothers was gunned down outside a Jefferson Highway Bank only weeks before Dunn left for Tallahassee and FSU - for instilling valuable life lessons.

"I came here and I was last on the depth chart," said Dunn, who signed with FSU and coach Bobby Bowden out of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"I wasn't even supposed to be here as a running back. I was supposed to be here as a defensive back. I guess I had that chip on my shoulder that I wasn't going to let anybody  deny me that if I had the opportunity I was going to prove that I could play that position and hopefully be the best player that I can be.

"I guess it all worked out."

Reach Jim Henry at jjhenry@tallahassee.com.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Former FSU star Warrick Dunn hosts 'Tackle Your Testing,' talks football