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Profile: Warrick Dunn - III



Warrick Dunn 1995


Danny Kanell


xxx



Tiki and Ronde Barber and their mom


Lewis Tyre (66) celebrates what he thinks is a Dunn TD at Virginia.

The 1994 Florida State Seminoles defended their ACC championship but not their national championship.

  • With TB Sean Jackson having graduated, sophomore Warrick Dunn nearly doubled his yardage from his freshman season.

    Bold = team leader
      Rushing Receiving
    Year Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
    1993 68 511 7.5 4 25 357 14.3 6
    1994 152 1026 6.8 8 34 308 9.1 1

  • The Noles started the season ranked #4 and rose to #3 as they traveled to the Orange Bowl for their annual game with Miami of the Big East Conference. Once again the Hurricanes knocked off an unbeaten FSU squad. There was no "wide right" this time but instead five turnovers that led to a 34-20 defeat. Warrick gained only 32y on eight carries and caught just a single pass for 2y.
  • But five straight victories clinched the ACC title before a 31-31 tie with Florida that FSU fans considered a victory since QB Danny Kanell sparked a furious 28-point Q4 comeback in Doak Campbell Stadium.
  • Since the annual rivalry wasn't decided on the field, the Sugar Bowl invited the Gators and Noles to play the "Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter." Playing in his home state, Dunn earned MVP honors by rushing 14 times for 58y, catching nine passes for 51, and throwing a 73y TD pass in the 23-17 triumph.
  • The 10-1-1 Noles finished #4 in the final AP poll, their eighth straight top four finish.

Warrick's 1995 season is remembered for one carry in Game #8 at Virginia.

  • The Seminoles started atop the AP poll and stayed there through the first seven games.
  • FSU extended its record in ACC games to 29-0, leading pundits to label the conference as "Florida State and the Eight Dwarfs."
  • The Noles were 18-point favorites on a Thursday evening in beautiful Charlottesville. Let Warrick describe what happened.

We knew Virginia was ready; they were jacked to play us. Virginia had dropped two games earlier in the season on the game's final play, and George Welsh, in his twenty-third season as a Division I coach, had a team with plenty of star power in Tiki and Ronde Barber and Anthony Poindexter.
It was a cool autumn night, and the overflow crowd of 44,300 at Scott Stadium was excited. ... it was a battle from start to finish. We led 7-0 and 14-7 early, but trailed 33-21 late. We couldn't stop Tiki, who finished with 311 all-purpose yards, and our offense, which averaged 56.1 points per game, was slowed by our own mistakes. But we never stopped working.
I scored on a 7-yard sweep to cap a four-play, 88-yard drive with 6:13 to play. Down 33-28 with possession at our own 20-yard line and 1:37 remaining, QB Danny Kanell moved us across midfield to the Virginia 11-yard line with 13 seconds left. Kanell spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock, but the Cavaliers were whistled for having too many men on the field. That gave us possession at the 6-yard line. Kanell threw out of the end zone on the next play.
With four seconds left, we had time to run one last play. I stood next to Kanell in the shotgun formation, and center Clay Shriver, on a designed play called a direct snap, snapped the ball to me instead of Danny. I was surprised when the play wa called in the huddle, but I thought it could work. It looked like we had Virginia's defense sealed off. I sprinted off right tackle toward the end zone. I thought I scored the winning touchdown on the play, but officials ruled that I was stopped inches shy of the goal line by Poindexter and safety Adrian Burnim. Virginia cornerback Ronde Barber trailed the play and was told by an official near the play that the ball had touched the ground before I crossed the goal line.
My upper body was actually in the end zone, but the ball, knocked loose as I was tripped at the last second and lunged forward, was near my waist. Virginia's crowd erupted, and it seemed like everyone rushed the field. We just wanted to get off the field as fast we could so nobody got hurt. Fans tore down the goalposts and carried them above their heads and out of the stadium. Our locker room was so quiet you could hear a tear drop. And there were plenty of tears.

  • But Warrick didn't have time to cry. He had to fly to Baton Rouge to testify in the sentencing phase of the trial of one of the men who killed his mother. He told the Assistant District Attorney that he didn't want to testify because he didn't want his fame as an athlete to be exploited. She said I was Betty's son, and that I would represent my mother as her son - and not as an athlete - on the witness stand. Impressed by what Warrick and his younger brother told them about losing their mother, the jury took less than an hour to return the death penalty. Warrick: In a few days I returned to Tallahassee, where football fans were still dissecting our defeat at Virginia and calling it a heartbreaking loss. My heart had been broken two years earlier and all I felt was emptiness.

The Seminoles bounced back to win their remaining two conference games and tie Virginia for first place in the conference.

  • Florida beat the Noles 35-24 in Gainesville to get revenge for the Sugar Bowl defeat.
  • The Noles got an Orange Bowl bid, their 14th post-season appearance in a row, and defeated Notre Dame 31-26. They continued their amazing streak of Top Four finishes in the AP poll.
  • Warrick ended the season with 1242y rushing, a school record, and 294 receiving. He scored 16 TDs, his best performance of his three-year career.
  • He was now within 991y of the FSU career rushing record of 3,760 held by Greg Allen (1981-84).

Dunn now faced a major decision: Should he return for his senior year or depart early for the NFL?

  • He was projected as a first- or second-round selection in the April draft, the highest of any FSU TB since Sammie Smith left FSU following his junior season in 1988.
  • Warrick recalled: After the Orange Bowl, I flew home to Baton Rouge to be with my family and discuss my future. Actually, it was to reinforce a decision I had already made prior to our bowl game. I understood the importance of education. It was a value that I had preached to my brothers and sisters following my mom's murder three years earlier. Plus, during my senior year at Catholic High, I promised Mom that I would attend college and graduate. I was about to break that promise. Education was my top priority. ... I also saw what type of team we had coming back and I thought we had a better chance of winning a national championship. Plus, I had thirty-five credit hours left after the spring semester and was on course to get my degree in Information Technologies. I believed another year in school wouldn't hurt anything. The money? I hadn't had money for twenty-one years, so what was another year?
  • Dunn had told Coach Bobby Bowden that he was leaning toward returning for another season but asked him to keep it a secret.
  • After returning from Baton Rouge, Dunn announced his decision to stay at a press conference. The crowd erupted in applause.

To be continued ...

References: Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond,
Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger (2008)


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Seminole Sidelines Archives – I

Birth of the Seminoles
Dedication of Doak Campbell Stadium
Bear Was Fit to be Tied
Rock Bottom in Tallahassee
First Season
"Our team cheated ... and we still couldn't beat him."
First Bowl Game
Bobby Wouldn't Quit

Seminole Sidelines Archives – II

#1 Fan
1988 Fiesta Bowl
Are You Stupid?
Birth of the Sod Cemetery
Fred Biletnikoff
Birth of the Fast Break Offense
Memorable Game: LSU 1991
First Air Trip
First SEC Win
First Peach Bowl

Seminole Sidelines Archives – III

Puntrooskie
He Coulda Been a Star
When Johnny U Came to Tallahassee
Bobby's First Gator Win
"Most Memorable Month"
A Stand for the Ages
The "Dirty Jerseys" Game
27 Fumbles in One Game

Seminole Sidelines Archives – IV

Offside? OK, Do It Again.
Florida 1960
Two Backups Beat ASU
Profile: Ron Sellers
Colossal Upset - Almost
Losing Streak Finally Ends
First - Renegade Appears
"The Most Bizarre of His Victories"
Notre Dame Comeback #1
Notre Dame Comeback #2

Seminole Sidelines Archives – V

First Victory over Miami
Birth of "Huff the Magic Dragon"
Can Anybody Here Snap the Ball?
Same Foe, Same Score
A Big Win
First Win at Auburn
Bobby's Ties (I-IV)

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VI

#1 vs #2 Miami 1991
#1 vs #2 Notre Dame 1993
#1 vs #2 Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl
#1 vs #2 Tennessee 1998
#1 vs #2 Virginia Tech 1999

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VII

First Game against Florida
First Game at Michigan
Maybe the Video Wasn't Such a Good Idea
Live by the Rooskie, Die by the Rooskie
Profile: Jameis Winston

First Undefeated Season (I-IV)
"The Zaniest Game in Miami's History"
When Bowden Faced Saban

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VIII

Auburn Fires the Last Shot
Profile: Warrick Dunn - I
Warrick Dunn - II

Seminole Sidelines Archives – 1979 Bobby's First Undefeated Season

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