Warrick Dunn will receive the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in honor of his longstanding charitable efforts and philanthropy.
After playing at Florida State, Dunn, 44, spent 12 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was drafted in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft and in that same year, was named NFL Rookie of the Year by Football News, Pro Football Weekly and Sports Illustrated. But Dunn did something even more impactful off the field during his rookie season: he started the Homes for the Holidays program to provide economically disadvantaged single parents and their families with the opportunity to own a home.
At 22, Dunn started the program as a tribute to his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer who as a single-mother of six worked tirelessly to achieve the American dream of owning her own home and was killed in the line of duty while working additional hours as an off-duty police officer.
In 2002, Dunn founded Warrick Dunn Charities in order to expand his charitable efforts beyond Home for the Holidays, creating three additional programs that help combat poverty and improve the quality of lives for families academically, socially, and economically. After retiring from the league in 2008, Dunn has continued to make a difference in the lives of others. To date, Dunn has provided more than 170 homes for families in need.
Dunn’s commitment to giving back reflects the spirit of Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which celebrates individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.
The award presentation will take place at SI’s Sportsperson of the Year event on Dec. 9 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City.