Janice Cantrell signs the paper work to take ownership of her new Habitat for Humanity home while nephew, Corey Cantrell and Warrick Dunn look on. (Photo by Ashton Staniszewski on behalf of the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation.)

Death of mother made Warrick Dunn charity-conscious

Warrick Dunn’s mother was shot and killed when he was a 18-year-old senior in high school. Suddenly, the player who later became Falcon became the head of a household.

“That became my focus,’’ Dunn said, “and it was taking care of my family. It was like a blur back then. It was very emotional and difficult.’’

Dunn would go on to star at Florida State and in the NFL with the Falcons and Tampa Bay, but still to this day marks the memory of his mother and does it in a very special way.

Living in east Atlanta and working through his nonprofit, Warrick Dunn Charities, Dunn said just recently that they provided the 139th home to a single mom. He made the announcement by tweeting, “Family 139th for @WDCharities. Life changing moments never get old. Thankful.”

Since his retirement in 2006, Dunn has worked to make a difference in the lives of others by giving them the opportunity to secure a home, a program he started when he was still playing in the NFL.

Dunn’s mother, Betty Smothers, was a police officer in Baton Rouge, La., and was gunned down in 1993 when she was escorting a grocer to make a deposit at a bank. Her murderer, Kevan Brumfield, was sentenced to be executed in Louisiana, but still sits on death row — though a recent report by The Times-Picayune said that “a Supreme Court ruling that was issued could result in Kevan Brumfield avoiding the death penalty and being declared mentally disabled. A 2002 Supreme Court ruling declared that it is unconstitutional to execute convicted felons who have been determined by the court to be ‘mentally retarded.’”

Back in 2008, Dunn made a visit to see Brumfield in prison. Brumfield told Dunn he didn’t kill his mother and in his memoir, “Running for My Life,” Dunn wrote, “Finally, after listening to Brumfield for a while longer, I decided I just wanted to tell him about what that night did to me and how that night changed my life. I wanted him to know that I used to play football with passion and emotion. I still play with the passion for the game, but I no longer play the game with emotion because the night Mom was murdered took all the emotion from me.’’

Said Dunn this week, “I am just thankful I have been able to do something in my mother’s memory that makes a difference. That is how I always want to remember her.’’

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