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Off-the-field stories fuel Buccaneer Warrick Dunn's autobiography

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers give us hope that world peace is possible. If former Florida Gators can play alongside former Florida State Seminoles with peace, love and understanding, can't we all (in the words of Rodney King) just get along?

Warrick Dunn was a star at FSU, a star for the Bucs and a star for the Atlanta Falcons. Now he has returned to the Bucs and written an autobiography with veteran sports journalist Don Yaeger.

Running for My Life isn't just a remembrance of football games past. Sure, there's enough recounting of Dunn's incredible on-field accomplishments to keep the stat hounds happy. But it's the away-from-the-game story that makes the book so compelling. In fact, when Dunn does recite his spectacular football achievements, he seems uncharacteristically immodest and the book actually drags.

What grips us from the start is the central tragedy of Dunn's life. His mother, a police officer in Baton Rouge, La., was murdered in 1993, when Dunn was a senior in high school. She'd been a single mother and it fell to Dunn, the eldest, to care for his five siblings. How he managed to do that, become a football star and deal with his rage over her death provides the book's greatest drama.

Dunn visits his mother's confessed killer in prison, and after a tense, uncomfortable but important meeting, gets up to leave. The death-row inmate tells him that his mother's life was not wasted, because she had produced such a fine family — people who had done so much for others. It's a jolt, considering the source.

Yaeger is a sports book pro, so Running for My Life reads smoothly. Tales of Dunn's good deeds (for example, his foundation builds homes for single mothers) don't get tiresome because of his humility. He proves the convict's claim, telling his story the way he plays football — with relentless grace.

William McKeen teaches journalism at the University of Florida.

Running

for My Life

By Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger

Harper Entertainment, 274 pages, $25.95

Off-the-field stories fuel Buccaneer Warrick Dunn's autobiography 01/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 3:30am]

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