Dunn big enough to run for 10,000 yards

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry

AT­LANTA — Take that, all those folks who thought War­rick Dunn was too small to play in the NFL, who fig­ured he would last no more than a year or two be­fore they ran him out of the league — prob­a­bly on a stretcher.

The diminu­tive run­ning back may be “5-foot-noth­ing,” as team­mate Ovie Mughelli jok­ingly put it, but he’s at 11 years and count­ing, still car­ry­ing the ball fear­lessly against de­fend­ers who look as though they could swal­low him whole.

To­day, Dunn could for­ever stamp him­self as one of the tough­est and most durable run­ners to play this game by join­ing the 10,000-yard club. At the mo­ment, there are only 21 mem­bers of the exclusive group.

“I think I’ve sur­prised peo­ple over the years with how hard I run and how tough

I am,” said Dunn, gen­er­ously listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds. “I haven’t worn down. Just to be at this point in my ca­reer, to me that says a lot to all the peo­ple who doubted me.”

Dunn’s tim­ing is im­pec­ca­ble, too.

He’s just 58 yards from 10,000 with the Fal­cons (36) host­ing the first-place Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers (54), the team that drafted him out of Florida State in 1997 and made him a lead run­ner for the first five years of his ca­reer.

“It’s weird,” Dunn said. “A cou­ple of weeks ago, peo­ple were say­ing this might hap­pen. But the way things were go­ing at the time, I thought it might take six more games to get there. It’ll be crazy if it hap­pens. I’m sure those guy don’t want it to hap­pen, not against Tampa.”

In­deed, per­sonal ac­com­plish­ments were the last thing on Dunn’s mind when the Fal­cons lost six of their first seven games, a dis­mal start that could largely be traced to Michael Vick’s dog­fight­ing case.

Also, Dunn was strug­gling to come to grips with new coach Bobby Petrino’s of­fen­sive sys­tem. It didn’t fit the 32-year-old run­ner nearly as well as the West Coast sys­tem used by the pre­vi­ous staff.

Dur­ing the Jim Mora era, Dunn had three straight 1,000yard sea­sons and the team led the league in rush­ing each time. Through the first seven games this sea­son, he had a pal­try 292 yards and was av­er­ag­ing just over 3 yards per carry.

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