By Noah Allison–
Ever since he was six years old, junior Brandon Dunn has been wreaking havoc in Louisville at defensive tackle, the only thing that has changed is now that big kid is a little bit bigger and wreaking a lot more havoc in the trenches for Coach Strong at U of L.
“I was thrown into the fire because of my size. My daddy said I was too big to play soccer, I was too big to play basketball and every time you saw me I had a football in my hand,” Dunn said. “My mother would always tell me to put that basketball down and pick up a football. I’ve always played defensive tackle, I have always played on the defensive line, so I just love it.”
Card Nation is quite appreciative of Dunn’s parents at this point; the 6’3”, 285 lb. defensive tackle has been plugging up holes along the line all year long eating up double teams and collecting nine solo tackles, 18 total tackles and one sack, helping the Cardinals make it to their current state of success.
“It feels good. The physicality of practice wears on you, but what makes it fun is the guys. We are happier in the locker room, more together. It is just fun, everybody is focusing in and locking in and not forgetting our goal is to go undefeated, so everybody just understands,” Dunn said. “Coach Strong isn’t preaching anymore, we just go out there and play hard, we know how to practice and we know how to do our jobs. The players are coaching each other so we’ve just been having fun and are ready to go.”
Each week of preparation and practice has been key to the Cardinal’s success this season. Coach Strong and the rest of the coaching staff constantly work to improve, and being a Louisville Cardinal allows for nothing but constant improvement.
“It’s been crazy work—not more of yelling but mental. We lock down on everything; every little detail is critical to us and we just pay attention to it and critique everything to the best of our ability,” Dunn said.
On a team with only one starting senior on defense, Adrian Bushell, it has been a necessity for the team to grow over the season and for each individual to hold himself accountable.
“We are more mature. A lot of juniors and sophomores are on the team, and we respect the senior class. We play hard for those guys. They know that, so we just follow them,” Dunn said.
The young Louisville Cardinals approach each week and game with a sense of professionalism that is exemplified through Dunn.
“I just continue to try and get better everyday and play my position the best I can. I fell off a little bit, and I’m just trying to get it back all together,” Dunn said. “For me and the rest of the defensive line, it’s all about TFS, tackles for loss. We have to get more physical and explosive coming off the line. Wreak havoc in other peoples’ backfields; once we do that, we will be all right. There are a lot of players hurt and injured though, but we have a lot of people with opportunities to come up and step up.”
“The hardest thing about playing in the trenches and playing defensive tackle is you have to be perfect every play. If you take one wrong step, you will be cut out of a gap. If you take a long step, you’ll get pancaked by an o-lineman. You have to be real physical at the point of contact. You know every play is hard, but if you do that every play, then you will be okay,” Dunn said.
Playing the defensive tackle position, Dunn’s productivity on the season can’t be measured simply of stats, as his biggest impact isn’t recorded on paper. He does the gritty work that is required to win a football game, but doesn’t necessarily get all the love that other positions get.
“Double teams, I try to take away the double team as much as I can; I’ve got accustomed to it, I like it. Giving you the respect of saying they have to have two people block you each play. I just feel good about it, like Coach Hurtt, the defensive line coach, said, ‘If it takes two to block you, then you are respected on the field and respected by your peers,’” Dunn said.
Respected by his peers is one way of putting it. The force in the middle has not only been productive on his own, but he has also opened up opportunities for other members on the defense to make the play up by the line of scrimmage. Perhaps the highlight for the defensive line this season was a four down goal line stand at the one-yard line against the University of South Florida. Dunn and the rest of the line bore down and refused to give up the one yard USF needed to make it into the end zone.
“Goal line—I love the goal line. It tests a person’s manhood; you know you have to run right through me, and you can’t run around me, so I have to stand up to them. The low man wins, and I just have to keep my pads low every time,” Dunn said.
A Louisville native, Dunn is right at home stuffing runs in Papa John’s stadium as he has grown accustomed to doing his job from his high school days at Pleasure Ridge Park high school.
“It had a big impact on me, because at PRP there was a whole bunch of love,” Dunn said. “The teachers, the coaches, the students, they all love the football team, and I just picked that school because there was a lot of love and a great fan base behind it and a lot of support. I knew if anything went wrong at the end of the day PRP had my back.”
The hometown hero has done nothing but been there for his team, his fan base and his city. Card Nation is lucky to have held on to this home grown talent that has proven to be a valuable asset along the defensive line. Dunn is just one of many important pieces in the winning machine that is the Cardinal football team, and like any piece of technology, this machine wouldn’t run without all of its important parts fully functioning in sync with each other.
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal