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NFL legend Warrick Dunn's housing program changes lives of single parents

Ex-NFL player helps families get new homes
Rebuilding America: Former NFL player helps single parents reach homeownership dream 04:11

Warrick Dunn, a Florida State University standout who broke school records and played 12 seasons in the NFL, will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year. But his most important legacy may be his Homes for the Holidays program for single-parent families, inspired by his own life experiences.

In 1993, Dunn's mother, Betty Smothers, died while moonlighting as a security guard, a job she took on in addition to her duties as a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officer.

Just 18 years old at the time, Dunn was left to raise his five siblings.

"It all fell on me," Dunn said. "And I just felt like I need to make sure we have a place that we can actually call home. We moved, what ... three, four times living in Baton Rouge, and we were renting."

So Dunn used his mother's life insurance payout to buy his siblings their first home.

"I didn't have a place that I can actually say, hey, this is where we develop all of our memories as kids growing up," he said.

His personal experiences led Dunn to establish Homes for the Holidays during his inaugural season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The program has helped hundreds of single parents across 16 states make down payments on their first homes and also furnishes the homes and stocks the pantries.

Trista, a single mother who received help from Dunn's program just before Thanksgiving 2002, said receiving a home was the happiest time of her life.

But the happiness of a free home came with an unexpected cost when the neighborhood turned dangerous after the housing market crashed. Trista rode it out and used the equity in that first home to buy the house where she lives today.

Reflecting on his journey, Dunn said there is still so much more to do for the program.

"It takes a little bit to build that generational wealth, but this is where you start," he said.

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