Whitman alum makes NFL practice squad


Photo courtesy Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn (’12) tackles his opponent. Dunn was recently signed to the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad, and his journey in the NFL continues.

By Matthew van Bastelaer

After playing 11 years of football, former Whitman offensive tackle Michael Dunn (’12) finally made it to the highest level in football: the NFL.

Up until his senior year of high school, Dunn never expected football to bring him anywhere in life, but now it’s become his career. Dunn was signed on to the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad in September, and though he was cut shortly after, his journey in the NFL is ongoing.

“I loved my time out in Los Angeles, and all the guys were really great,” Dunn said. “When you go into the league undrafted, you know that this is exactly what it’s going to be like. When you’re just a guy trying to make it in the league, you know that you could be somewhere completely different one week than you were the week before.”

Dunn joined the junior varsity football team his freshman year at Whitman but didn’t play much; he was playing to have fun and make friends. Dunn didn’t see the field at all during his junior year on varsity, due to an abundance of talented seniors.

“Because I didn’t really play my junior year, I didn’t really think college football was an option,” Dunn said. “Everybody gets recruited their junior year.”

Andrew Feder (’12) was one of Dunn’s closest friends on the Whitman team. For their first two seasons in high school, the two played similar positions and were of similar stature. Feder fondly remembers that during the infamous blizzard of 2010, that all changed.

“Everyone was gone for a week of school, and no one could get out of their house,” Feder said. “When we came back, I swear Michael grew six inches. He shot up overnight and became an absolute behemoth. After that, there was no more comparing us in size.”

Dunn started on the offensive line his senior year and began to get calls from Division III and Division 1-AA football programs, like Lehigh and Lafayette. Then, out of the blue, Dunn received a call from the University of Maryland offering him a walk-on spot on their team just one week before signing day, though there weren’t enough scholarships to grant him one.

“In addition to athletic ability, Michael is a great character guy and had great academics,” Coach Tom Brattan, the former Maryland assistant coach who recruited Dunn, said. “That’s the kind of combination you want.

Dunn was redshirted his freshman year, meaning he didn’t dress for games. This gave Dunn an extra year of eligibility and time to adjust to college play.

“It was great playing with so many different people,” Dunn said. “Guys like Stefon Diggs who are so talented make you work extremely hard. Seeing everybody else around me really motivated me for my redshirt year. I gained 40 pounds and got a chance to start my redshirt freshman year.”

After redshirt year at UMD, Dunn earned a scholarship and started in all but three games for the rest of his Maryland career. But in his senior year, Dunn dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum, forcing him to have surgery.

“It drastically affected my draft status, and I couldn’t do anything on pro day, ” Dunn said. “I was radared as an injury risk for all the teams going into the draft. It was pretty disheartening.”

Dunn kept in shape and got a call in June from the Los Angeles Rams. They brought him out, had him workout with the team and ultimately signed him. Dunn originally struggled with the faster pace, but he finished the preseason off with a strong showing.

“I started settling in and getting back to my old ways, learning the technique and getting the playbook down better,” Dunn said. “I did well enough to make the practice squad with hopes of eventually being on the active roster.”

Dunn’s former coach, and math teacher at Whitman Jim Kuhn has followed Dunn since his days at Whitman. Kuhn, who has a UMD poster of Dunn in his classroom, praised his former player for having made it this far, despite going undrafted and being cut from the Rams’ practice squad.

“It’s incredible for him to have been part of any program at all—it’s very difficult to achieve and stay in the league,” Kuhn said. “The average NFL career span is a little over two years, so it’s not easy to do.”

Dunn’s agent is currently talking to other NFL teams with the hopes of finding another interested team. Dunn explained that teams will probably evaluate what they have, then possibly look his way after a couple of injuries to players on the team.

“I’m just doing what I can to make sure I’m ready for it whenever I get the next call,” Dunn said.