Warrick Dunn, a 2017 inductee into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, has been named the 2019 recipient of the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Dunn, who earned All-America status at Florida State in the 1990s before excelling in a 12-year NFL career with the Tampa Bay Bucs and Atlanta Falcons, was honored with the Ali award for his “Home for the Holidays” program.
For past 23 years Dunn has provided down payment assistance and fully furnished 174 homes for low income, single-parent families across 11 states. Although the families actually take a mortgage and make payments on the homes, Dunn’s assistance makes the purchase possible. Between the down payment assistance and furnishing the home, Dunn’s foundation helps qualify and then contributes about $40,000 in cash and furnishings to each recipient.
Dunn started the program in honor of his mother, Betty Smothers — a Baton Rouge, LA police officer — who was murdered in line of duty in 1993. Smothers, a single mother of six, died before ever realizing her dream of providing her children with a permanent home.
In his rookie year with the Bucs Dunn became involved in the community at the urging of Head coach Tony Dungy. That Thanksgiving Dunn sponsored three families moving into their first home. Dunn told Sports Illustrated that “When I saw their reactions, it’s like Wow, man I just changed someone’s life. I want to do that again!”
From that experience, Home for the Holidays was born.
Dunn’s charitable acts are not limited to that program. Warrick Dunn Charities runs additional support programs including Count on Your Future, which provides financial training; Sculpt, which teaches healthy eating habits to children; and Hearts for Community Service, which awards $1000 college scholarships to students who do volunteer work.
Dunn was inducted in the same Florida Sports Hall of Fame class that included Tim Tebow, who is nationally known for his work with special needs children and children living in poverty stricken foreign countries; Tim Finchem, former Commissioner of the PGA Tour that oversaw the raising of millions of dollars for charities at Tour Events; Chipper Jones, whose Foundation has raised millions for children’s hospitals and former LPGA star Colleen Walker, who spent the last year’s of her life on creating awareness and raising funds for breast cancer research.
“So many of our members are involved in their communities through charities or their own foundations,” Florida Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director Wayne Hogan said. “Warrick Dunn has made it his mission to make home ownership a reality for low income single family parents. We congratulate him on receiving the Muhammad Ali Award and hope that recognition inspires all to follow his example.”