Just after midnight on January 7, 1993, Cpl. Betty Smothers of the Baton Rouge Police Department was helping a local store clerk institute a night deposit at a nearby bank when both women were ambushed by two gunmen who shot and ultimately killed Smothers. The violent incident was notable not just because a loyal police officer was killed--only the fifth Louisiana policewoman ever--but because Smothers was the single mother of five children, the oldest being Catholic High Senior football standout Warrick Dunn. The previous fall Warrick, a quarterback, corner and kick returner, had guided Catholic to its first ever state championship game and later signed a letter of intent to play football at Florida State. With the death of his mother, he assumed his role as head of his family even as he would enroll at FSU later that same year. Dunn instantly became a key component of a backfield which included Heisman trophy winner (and Warrick's roommate) Charlie Ward, helping lead the Seminoles to their first ever National Championship almost a year to the day of his mother's death. The rest of the story is something of a legend, Dunn breaking all manner of school rushing records, winning awards and receiving accolades on his path to a standout pro career where he won a Super Bowl as part of the Tampa Bay Bucs and was a three time Pro Bowl selection.
But this story's not really about football. No book which opens with a man confronting his mother's murderer on death row can really be about a game. And even though Dunn's story, his athletic career included, is something of an improbable feel-good tale of overcoming obstacles, the book's not a publicity piece or an overdramatized memoir weighed down by sentiment. The narrative is a truly down-to-earth confessional from a humble, soft-spoken man who managed to parlay a horrendous tragedy into an opportunity for love, forgiveness and a chance to help those in need. Since 1997, the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation has helped thousands of underpriveleged single parent families find help with basic needs assistance and the "Homes For the Holidays" portion of the non-profit has given the gift of home ownership to thousands in the Greater Baton Rouge area, Tampa Bay, Tallahassee and Atlanta. Dunn is now a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons. (796.332092 DUNN)