From the Sports Desk: Dunn inspires many

December 14, 2010|By Steve Virgen,

Who is Damon Dunn? Have you ever heard of him?

At the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, he could be described as unassuming.

In a room full of doctors, lawyers, retired millionaires and former professional football players, Dunn didn't really seem to stick out.

Back when he was a kid on his farm in Fort Worth, Texas, he never thought he would be in this room. He was the keynote speaker Sunday night for the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy annual event.


John Hamilton, the Pacific Club president and a Newport Beach resident, was thrilled to land Dunn as the speaker. Simply put, Dunn has quite a story to tell.

"He's one of the most unique men I ever met in my life," Hamilton said of Dunn. "This man is going to be governor of this state, or the President of the United States. He just has a way about him. He's like a magnet. He's like a pied piper. Everyone wants to be around him. What isn't there to admire about him?"

Dunn has the classic rags-to-riches story, which makes him say, "Only in America." His ability to relate to many people made him the perfect fit to speak on Sunday night.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy is awarded to a college football defensive player who excels on the field and is also leader in community service efforts.

Ever since Dunn made his first million dollars he intensified his efforts to give back. He's wanted to inspire. He rarely passes up the opportunity to motivate someone, even a sports reporter.

Dunn, who starred as a receiver at Stanford, grew up poor in Texas. "Food stamps and no health care," Dunn says. "Government cheese."

His mother had him when she was 16. When he was 3 his father was killed. Dunn lived in a trailer home, cramped with about 10 other relatives.

"In this country your current disposition doesn't have to determine your destination," said Dunn, 34, a successful businessman who recently ran for California Secretary of State. "In this country you can get an education and it's your golden ticket. In this country you can start with nothing and end up with a lot."

Dunn was recruited to Stanford by the late Bill Walsh, who also once spoke at the Lott Trophy ceremony. There have been several great speakers at the event in Newport Beach since it began in 2004. Frank Gifford was a speaker, as was Keith Jackson. Last year, Peter Ueberrorth spoke.

So who is Dunn?

After Stanford, Dunn played a bit in the NFL, struggling to find his place as a pro. But this story isn't really about football. Dunn merely used the game to help in his quest for success.

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