Dunn has an uphill battle, but if he can show that he is a weapon in the presesaon, he has a chance.
Dunn has an uphill battle, but if he can show that he is a weapon in the presesaon, he has a chance.
Will Reggie Stir Steelers' Drink?
By Jim Wexell
Posted May 15, 2013
Reggie Dunn vs. Colorado (Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)
Undrafted rookie free agent Reggie Dunn wasn't a full-time starter in college but he comes to the Steelers with electrifying speed. Sound familiar?
Like so many of the rookies who come to Pittsburgh these days, Reggie Dunn grew up a diehard Steelers fan.
His dad did it to him. Reggie Dunn Sr. was a Steelers fan even before his best friend while growing up in New Orleans, Louis Lipps, became a star with the team.
Reggie Sr. met a California girl and moved out to the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, where Reggie Jr. was born. There, in gangsta-land, Junior managed to avoid the riots, the gangs, the trouble, even the Raiders.
“My dad kept me a diehard Steelers fans,” said Dunn, a rookie wide receiver out of Utah who signed with the Steelers after the draft. “I had a Kordell Stewart jersey. When I was in high school I had a Ben Roethlisberger jersey. I used to love watching Santonio Holmes and guys like that. I tried to emulate their game growing up.”
Dunn, of course, was elated when Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 43. And he’s quick to point to the Super Bowl 40 win as a big moment for him, too.
“Even the one they lost against the Cowboys,” he said of Super Bowl 30. “I just turned seven. I remember them losing that. Even when I was in college I was sad they lost to the Packers. I’ve been into the Steelers for a long time. This is a great opportunity for me.”
His favorite players?
“I liked Jerome Bettis, all the linebackers, Troy, even watching Mike Wallace,” he said. “I love watching great playmakers. I liked Willie Parker. That was a great story. I think he was in the same situation.”
And that’s where this story really begins, because Dunn’s college story is similar to Parker’s. Both brought incredible speed to the Steelers after signing as free agents after college careers in which both spent more time on the bench than on the field.
Parker, of course, made the Steelers, moved into the starting lineup, and set a Super Bowl record. “Fast Willie” was known nationwide.
The story of “Fast Reggie” began to unravel his senior year at Verbum Dei High School, when Dunn gained over 1,000 all-purpose yards and scored 15 touchdowns for the second consecutive season.
He was a Scout.com four-star recruit and chose Oregon State over a number of colleges. But Dunn didn’t qualify academically and enrolled at Compton Community College.
After one season of football he committed back to Oregon State (on the same day as another recruit he had just met by the name of Markus Wheaton) but still needed to complete one more class, so it was back to CCC.
“There was a point in time, a few weeks in my life, when I thought I would never play football again,” Dunn said. “So I got on the Internet and went to school websites and started contacting coaches.”
He called coaches who had previously recruited him, and almost took an offer from Portland State before Utah returned his call.
“It was a blessing from God that I could go there and play football and receive my degree,” said Dunn, who ended his time at Utah with a degree in sociology but a somewhat uneven football resume.
On the first play of his career, Dunn scored on a 43-yard reverse. But he gained only 481 additional all-purpose yards the rest of the 2010 season, and that included a 100-yard kickoff return.
In 2011, Dunn started 8 games at receiver but caught only 15 passes for 211 yards (career long of 44) and rushed 15 times for 173 yards (career long of 51). He did return 26 kickoffs (23.6 avg., long of 45) as the primary KR man, but in the bowl game he gave that job away.
“We were having trouble tracking the ball,” he said of the Sun(-in-his-eyes) Bowl. “And then one of our other receivers had an 80-yard return in the game. So they made him the starter going into the next season.”
But in 2012 Dunn regained the job in Game 6. And then in Game 8, against Cal, Dunn returned 2 kickoffs for 100 yards each, and he returned another 100-yarder the following week against Washington State.
In Game 11 against Colorado, Dunn had another 100-yard return to set NCAA records with five 100-yard returns in his career and four in one season. That final return was his personal highlight.
“Their return guy returned one 100 yards to tie the game up, and then …,” Dunn said before re-setting his story. “For like three straight weeks no teams were kicking to me. Even Colorado, they didn’t kick it to me the whole game. But right after they returned that kick, for some odd reason they kicked to me. I know their game plan was to keep it away from me but they kicked it to me and I returned the kick right after that for 100 yards and it ended up being the clinching touchdown with like eight minutes to go in the game. It was the last touchdown scored in that game.
“It was crazy for me. That was the last time I touched the ball in college football, and that was the only time I touched the ball in that game.”
His first touch at Utah and his last one ended in the end zone. But in between, Dunn had only 31 career receptions for 355 yards and 1 touchdown.
“All I can say about that is I played my role to the best of my ability,” Dunn said. “I was never a guy to complain about an offense or a quarterback. When they got me the ball, I made plays.
“I consider myself a playmaker, a big-time playmaker. If the ball is in my hands enough times something good is going to happen. As far as Utah, I loved the school and I loved everything they did for me.”
It didn’t help Dunn that Utah went through five different quarterbacks and three different coordinators during his three seasons there. But at his pro day, the 5-9˝, 178-pounder ran his 40s in 4.25 and 4.26 seconds, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
“I’ve been hearing 4.22 and 4.26,” Dunn corrected, before adding, “Whatever.”
He looked all of 4.22 two weeks ago during full-sprint gunner drills at Steelers rookie minicamp. And he’s looking forward to putting on his No. 13 – the closest to his college No. 14 the team had available – at the Steelers’ OTAs, which begin next Tuesday.
“Yeah, I’m really excited, man,” Dunn said. “All the guys here are great. I know a few guys on the team. I was talking to DeMarcus Van Dyke, Jonathan Dwyer and (Maurkice) Pouncey, and we all played against each other in an all-star game back in 2007. Those three were on the same team; I was on the opposite team, an East meets West game. I know those guys from that, and Stevenson Sylvester went to Utah. So, all the guys are great here.
“I’m excited because I get a chance to play football while some of my friends are playing spring ball, and I get to put the helmet on in OTAs. It’s an exciting time and I’m ready to start making plays and showing the guys what I can do.”
Recent Pittsburgh Steelers History Says Reggie Dunn Has a Shot at Making the Roster
By Kyle Curry on May 19, 2013
So far the most talked about player heading into off-season workouts and training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers is not a second or third year player, or a draft pick, but an undrafted rookie free agent. Reggie Dunn played three years for the Utah Utes and became one of the best return men in the country. He was so well known for his return skills that teams kicked away from him.
Last year, during his senior season, Dunn only received 10 kickoff return attempts. However, even with few attempts to return Dunn made the most of them. He finished the 2012 season with a 51.3 yard per return average. That average is inflated because four of those ten kickoff return attempts were taken back for 100 yard touchdowns.
During Utah’s Pro-Day Dunn was clocked between 4.24 and 4.32. That may make him the fastest player on the Steelers roster at this time and means he could be a weapon in the return game. The only question surrounding Dunn is whether or not the Steelers would be willing to carry a return specialist on their roster and give up that roster spot for a true one-trick pony.
Another hurdle for Dunn will be showing that he can also return punts. While at Utah he only returned on punt for seven yards, but it seems even more unlikely the Steelers would carry a player that can only return kicks. However, if he can also handle punt return duties he may have a chance at making the roster.
During Mike Tomlin’s first season as the Steelers head coach the team traded a seventh round pick for Allen Rossum. Rossum is labelled as a corner, but his true position is as a return specialist. During the 2007 season Rossum returned punts and kicks for the Steelers including a 98 yard touchdown return against the San Francisco 49ers. Following that 2007 season Rossum was cut and replaced with a return-by-committee approach.
Two years after Rossum the Steelers signed Stefan Logan to a contract out of the Canadian Football League. Logan made the roster as a return specialist and returned punts and kicks for the team. In 2009, Logan broke the Steelers All-Time record for kick return yards. Even so, prior to the 2010 season Logan was cut and has played the last three seasons with the Detroit Lions.
In 2011, two years after Logan’s only year with the Steelers the team put second year receiver Antonio Brown in their return spot. Brown totaled over 1000 yards on returns and became the first player to have over 1000 yards returning and receiving in the same season.
Rossum, Logan and Brown only lasted one year each as the team’s return man and were followed up by a poor performance in their absence. Once again the Steelers have a chance to replace a poor performance with a potential star return man; this time in Dunn. Based on history Dunn has a chance to make the roster, but we could also predict that if he does he may not be around long.
Other options the Steelers have at returner are recently signed running back Larod Stephens-Howling. Stephens-Howling played at Pitt and for the Arizona Cardinals. During his first two years in the NFL he returned 109 kicks at a 25.7 yards per return average and returned three kicks for touchdowns. Sixth round pick Justin Brown returned punts during his college career at Penn State and Oklahoma and third round pick Markus Wheaton returned a handful of kicks during his college career.
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders also have experience as NFL return men, but as the team’s starting receivers it’s unlikely they will be returning kicks. Brown may continue to return kicks in certain situations, but it’s unlikely he will ever be the team’s main return man as the Steelers need to keep him healthy if he is serving as the team’s number on receiver.
Starkey: The Steelers’ mystery speed merchant
Utah kick returner Reggie Dunn (14) heads down the field for a touchdown against Colorado in the fourth quarter of Utah's 42-35 victory in a game in Boulder, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Dunn extended his NCAA record with his fifth career 100-yard kickoff return, and his fourth this season.
By Joe Starkey
Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013
Football in shorts means nothing. I get that. Forty-yard dash times in shorts mean even less.
But when a man negotiates those 40 yards in 4.22 seconds, he will raise eyebrows — especially when his resume already shows he had more 100-yard kickoff-return touchdowns (five) than anyone who played major college football.
So yes, Utah's Reggie Dunn is a player to track as the Steelers wind toward training camp. Just don't blink.
Can he do anything but return kicks?
No idea. He mentioned he saw time as a gunner in college and knows how to tackle. But that was after he mentioned 4.22, so I'm not even sure I heard it right.
Will his kick-return prowess translate at this level?
Again, sorry … but 4.22.
Will the Steelers make room for a one-trick pony, if indeed Dunn is that?
Not sure (4.22).
That ridiculous number, by the way, is Chris Johnson-fast and would have made Dunn the fastest wideout at the NFL Combine, if only he'd been invited. I wondered if it was one of those “agent” runs they talk about, or perhaps wind-aided.
Dunn directed me to YouTube, and sure enough, it's there, for all to see, at Utah's pro day. And even if 4.22 isn't his norm, anything below 4.3 is pretty sick.
“The official times they brought to the scouts and turned into the NFL were 4.22 and 4.26,” Dunn explained. “Actually, the coaches here the other day had me at 4.29.”
Still, Dunn knows it wasn't so much the 40-yard dash as a series of 100-yard dashes that got him his NFL shot. Over his final five collegiate games, he had four 100-yard-plus TD returns, including two against Cal, which might explain his Twitter handle: @ReggieDunn100.
The last time he touched an NCAA-inscribed football, Dunn sprinted the length of the field with it. Colorado had just returned a fourth-quarter kickoff for a touchdown and was still celebrating when Reggie went one-and-Dunn a final time, scoring the winning points in a 42-35 victory.
“I hadn't touched the ball the whole game,” he said. “For some reason, they kicked it to me.”
It is a bit puzzling that Dunn wasn't more involved in Utah's offense. He had just 25 combined runs and catches his senior year. He didn't even return punts, prompting speculation that he couldn't catch them.
“I wasn't able to (return punts) at Utah for different reasons,” he said, cryptically. “But if you come out here and watch me, you can obviously see I can catch the ball.”
If Dunn fails, it won't be for a lack of reverence for the franchise that signed him as an undrafted free agent. He says he grew up a Steelers fan in Compton, Calif., because his father, Reggie Dunn Sr., is a friend of former Steelers star Louis Lipps. The two hail from the same area of New Orleans.
“I can remember when Plaxico Burress was a rookie, when Tommy Maddox was here, when Kordell Stewart was here,” Dunn said. “All those guys — Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker. It's crazy that I'm on the same field and in the same facility.
“When I got that call from Coach Tomlin saying, ‘We want you to return kicks for us. Come to camp and show us what you can do,' I wasn't going to turn that down.”
A solid 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, Dunn is no giant. But he doesn't deserve the ever-present “diminutive” title, either.
“When I got here, Coach Tomlin said, ‘I thought you were smaller,' ” Dunn said. “I was like, ‘Looks can be deceiving.' ”
So can 40 times. But at the very least, you have to be intrigued.
The Steelers sure are.
NFL from the Sidelines
@ Reggie Dunn could be playing himself onto the team as a punt and kick returner. He had one kickoff return for 30 yards and averaged 18.5 yards on two punt returns, showing nice patience.
Yes, the Steelers have LaRod Stephens-Howling to return kicks, but if Bell is out for a while, they might want to use LSH a little more out of the backfield.
Nice, thanks for the update!
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good... i was kinda hoping he'd stick... 4.22 is just hard to leave off a roster
I was impressed with him last night. I hope we have room on the roster for him.
with signs that the offense is going to struggle again next year. keep him and see if we can get a boost from the return game
Not against keeping him on the roster & using him sparingly at RB/WR while holding the return duties.
Can't manufacture game speed.
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