By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Amir Dunn is the classic late bloomer. Always an athletic kid, Dunn bounced around from Holy Spirit to St. Joseph-Hammonton and finally to his hometown school, Egg Harbor Township, where he enrolled as a junior. He hadn’t played any varsity football to that point, but Eagles coach Kevin Stetser knew he had a diamond in the rough.
Dunn starting becoming a standout player about halfway through last year and really finished the season strong. This offseason, he really got after it in the weight room and now the linebacker/receiver is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. Still, with only a handful of performances on tape from his junior year, recruiters weren’t exactly knocking down his door.
Dunn said he knew he had to take matters into his own hands, and beginning in the spring he began posting his Hudl.com highlight videos all over Twitter and reached out to every coach who put up a tweet about looking for players. For a long time, nothing but crickets. But as the 2020 season began to come around, so did the recruiting calls. So much so that now Dunn has nearly double-digit offers and likely will get the opportunity to attend college for free on an athletic scholarship.
“I grew up in Atlantic City most of my life. I started out at Holy Spirit and then St. Joseph, and I was just looking for a home and I found that here at EHT. They were very welcoming, they took me under their wing and have treated me like family. This is where I felt was the best fit for me,” Dunn said. “Last year was my first year playing varsity and I was just trying to make a name for myself. I wasn’t known and there were starters in place here, and it was just a dog-eat-dog environment, I was going out there trying to prove that I deserved to be a starter, and that’s what happened. I worked hard and proved I was able to be a starter.
“This past offseason I just wanted to get myself out there,” he added. “Senior year was coming, I had a strong junior year and got a lot of film. My goal was to get myself out there and get recruited by college coaches, and it’s starting to come along.”
“When we got him last year, he had gone to a couple different schools, but from the moment he got here we felt like he was a good fit for us. And he felt like we were a good fit for him. He’s been aces, he really has,” Stetser said. “He came in last year as a junior and hadn’t really played any varsity football because he moved and had gone to different schools. He came out and played safety for us early but then we ended up putting him at the Sam linebacker position, and by the end of the year he was clearly one of our best players. And that’s grown from not only one of our top players, but one of the top players in the area. He’s a worker and a good kid, you’re not worried about what he’s doing, and he says the right things to his teammates.
“He acts the right way and practices the right way. We’re a big fan of the kid. He’s an awesome young man.”
Dunn said it wasn’t easy to remain hopeful when for so long no college coaches were reaching out to him, and he knows other guys are going through the same thing. But he said you just have to believe in yourself and not give up on the process, and be proactive.
“It’s never going to be a good start, so guys have to keep their heads up. I started my junior year and it’s a long, hard road. Nobody said it was going to be easy. And kids need to take school seriously because a lot of (college) coaches are looking at that. Coaches will look at your film, but if you don’t have the grades it’s not going to matter. So, you just have to keep your head up and keep tweeting at coaches, even if you feel like it’s not working at first, just keep doing it. I had moments where I saw everybody else getting offers and I felt like, what’s taking so long (for me)? It wasn’t my time yet, but you can’t stop a star from shining. A star is going to be noticed by somebody, eventually,” Dunn said. “It was amazing (getting my first offer). I remember getting the phone call and talking to the (Ithaca College) coaches. I was laying in bed just waking up, and after I got that first phone call I just went to work, continuing to build up more strength and speed, and reaching out to coaches daily. Even if you don’t get a response, that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out. Eventually they will see you.”
“It took a while, even just to get my first offer. But after I got my first offer more coaches started reaching out, and I got a second, third and fourth offer. Honestly, when the season got here, I haven’t been focused on that, I’ve just been focused on the team and this season. What blessings come along will come,” he added. “It’s a building process. Some guys want to get an offer right from the start, but it’s not about that. You have to keep working and show them that you belong at their college. I know I just have to keep working. You come to the field and work every day, and as more schools start to offer then you have to take into consideration what you want to major in and what the education part of it will be like. A lot of things take a role in what makes you commit to a certain school. Me, personally, I just want to continue to keep working and showing coaches what I have to offer.”
In an age when social media is the downfall of so many young athletes, it’s interesting to see high school players beginning to realize the power they have with their smart phone in their hands. And coach Stetser said, he had no problem with Dunn being so active on Twitter and reaching out to coaches on a near-daily basis. He knows Dunn is the type of kid who is going to use social media to his benefit and not let it become something that brings him and his dreams down.
“That’s how he handles his business. You trust a kid like that (on social media) and he’s done nothing but show us that trust is warranted. Last year, if he had a bad game or a bad day in practice, he owned it. He was the first one out there the next day wanting to do better. And if we had a down point in the season he was the first guy to pick the other guys up. And it’s genuine, it’s not forced. It comes out naturally to him and the other kids respect that. We’re thrilled to have him because he’s an awesome kid,” said Stetser, who is in his seventh year as head coach at EHT. “We want to win games and we want to teach these guys the game of football, but our main focus at this school and in this program is to use football as a vehicle to a better life. Are you going to use the things your coaches teach you about hard work and dedication and do that? If you can, that’s something. And some guys can’t afford to go to school without football — but by the same token, once you get to a school, you have to handle your business or they’re not going to keep you. There are so many things you can gain from football, and we try to teach these kids to use it as a vehicle to better your life in as many ways as possible.”
Dunn said he credits his mother with keeping him on the right track, and he intends to do whatever it takes to get to the next level while also keeping his mom’s checkbook stashed away in her pocketbook.
“I have to give it to my mom, she always tells me that if you want something, you have to go out and get it on your own. There’s not always going to be somebody there to help you, so if you really want something you have to go get it yourself, so that’s been my mentality. If I want something bad enough and if I want to get myself known, I have to do whatever it takes,” Dunn said. “Playing in college is everybody’s dream and some guys aren’t as fortunate as others. A guy like me, coming from a background where I didn’t have both parents growing up and I didn’t have the money to go to camps. Being the type of kid who came up through the mud and had to keep working, it’s an amazing feeling to know that I’m about to go to college, and I’ll be wanted somewhere. That’s an amazing feeling.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays