One man cannot change the world. Good. Bad. Mahatma Gandhi had his devoted followers. Adolf Hitler had his henchmen.
Warrick Dunn knows people have his back, too. But significant faces have vanished. His father has been distant, literally and figuratively. His mother, a police officer in Louisiana, was killed in a robbery attempt in 1993 as she drove a grocery store manager to the bank to make a night deposit.
Dunn could have given up right then and become another lost soul. Broken families and gun violence are powerful enemies.
But Dunn chose the good fight. Two days after his 18th birthday, he became the man of the house as the oldest of six siblings. He then honored his mom's wishes by attending Florida State, where he would become a star running back. He continued to shine in the NFL, playing for the Bucs and the Falcons. And he continues to honor her in so many ways.
In the middle of a racial divide over the killing of black men, followed by the slaughter of policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Dunn rose up again, giving witness to the man he has become on Facebook.
"We can't just sit around and talk about how horrible all this is — we have to do something," he wrote. "And that means it ALWAYS starts with the individual."
Dunn preached accountability. He wrote about "taking the role of fatherhood very seriously so I can raise a son who makes a positive contribution."
Dunn can look at the man in the mirror and be proud, buying homes for 147 single-parent families through his charity, "Home for the Holidays." He stands proud after starting Warrick Dunn Charities in 2002 so that underprivileged children can thrive educationally, socially and economically.
He stands tall for courage in revealing in his autobiography, Running for My Life, that he has dealt with depression.
He stands stronger for seeking counseling, and finding strength to sit down with Kevan Brumfield, one of the men who ambushed and killed his mother, meeting with him in 2007 at Angola Prison.
Moments define you. Tragic ones can beget another tragedy. Dunn rejected that trajectory in his life.
Dunn became a man at FSU. He had help, of course, embraced by a compassionate coach.
"Anytime Warrick had a problem, he'd come see me," Bobby Bowden said. "He'd tell me about his brothers and sisters. Some of them were not doing like they were supposed to. They were living with their grandmother. I'd tell him what I would do, and he'd get in a car and go home, get things straightened out and come back. He was a man really early."
Dunn, now 41, has kept evolving.
Another moment came this week when Dunn attended a hearing for Brumfield. The court ruled that Brumfield will be resentenced to life after determining that he has an intellectual disability preventing the state from executing him.
"Justice still not served 23 yrs later, killer spends life in prison with 3 meals a day and breathes fresh air," Dunn posted on Instagram. "My mother didn't have the same opportunity. Closing this chapter of my life."
One chapter ends, but others will be written. Dunn's perseverance suggests they will be great ones. — Orlando Sentinel (TNS)