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NFL star honored for aiding single parents

TAMPA, Fla. (BP)–The best of the NFL, both caught and taught, was evident at the 20th Annual Super Bowl Breakfast, where Tampa Bay running back Warrick Dunn was honored as the 2009 Bart Starr Award recipient.

The Jan. 31 pre-Super Bowl event, which showcased the character and faith of many former and current players and coaches, is sponsored by Athletes in Action and sanctioned by the NFL.

Starr, the award’s namesake told a record crowd of 6,000 people at the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome in Tampa that “we hear too much” about players who bring disrepute to the NFL. Instead, said Starr, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, “[W]e need to hear more about the good ones.”

Dunn, a 12-year NFL veteran, was honored for his work with single-parent families. Since 1997, the Warrick Dunn Foundation, through its Homes for the Holidays program, has provided 84 homes for single parents in Florida, Georgia and his home state of Louisiana.

The program not only provides the down payment for the homes to qualified parents but also furnishes everything a first-time homeowner would need, from food to linens to furniture.

Dunn said it was his late mother’s goal to own a home, and he wants to help others less fortunate in the same way.

“I have learned that God is first and foremost,” Dunn said, “and I’m thankful that my mom instilled in me that this life is not just about myself.”

Dunn, who started his career with the Buccaneers and returned this year after six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, said he began to undergo a radical change after rededicating his life to Christ in 2005 and, late last year, taking a step he never thought he would.

Dunn visited Louisiana’s Angola State Prison to visit the person who was convicted of killing his mother, an off-duty security officer, in a 1993 botched robbery.

“I told him, ‘I forgive you.’ I was so at peace after being so depressed for so long. God has become the most important thing in my life. When I recommitted my life to Christ, my relationship totally changed.

“I had a tragedy, but so many blessings along the way.”

Before the featured speaker, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, began to address the audience, he was surprised by several former teammates and players he influenced, including former Pittsburgh Steelers Donnie Shell and John Stallworth, Tampa Bay safety John Lynch and now-retired quarterback Trent Dilfer.

“We have been a witness to how you’ve matured in the Lord and how you’ve lived as a witness for Jesus Christ,” Shell told Dungy.

Newly hired Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said the Dungy legacy in Tampa, where he still lives, will continue with himself and new head coach Raheem Morris.

“God has taken me on quite a journey,” Dominik said. “I’ve talked with Him along the way and my relationship with Him is so very important.”

The breakfast also featured a series of video clips of players in Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals voicing their faith in Jesus Christ.

Also honored: high school coach Kris Hogan from the Dallas-area Faith Christian School who organized his fans and players to reach out to a team from Gainesville State School, a criminal juvenile institution, that Faith played against last November.

A number of Faith Christian fans sat behind the Gainesville bench and cheered for the team, then prayed for them after the game and sent them back to the school with a sack dinner and a Bible.

“Our worldview is Christian and we live outside the box. We want to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Hogan said.

At the conclusion of the breakfast, former Bart Starr Award winner Anthony Munoz, a Hall of Fame lineman, clearly shared the plan of salvation and asked those in the audience without Jesus to accept Him for the first time. Commitment cards were provided to each person in the room.
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based correspondent for Baptist Press who covered Super Bowl-related activities in Tampa, Fla.

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