Former Atlanta Falcons star Warrick Dunn is nearly as famous for his philanthropy as he is for his football exploits in the National Football League (NFL). 

 Dunn, 46, teamed up with a group of community-based organizations to advocate for the increase in vaccination rates in the Atlanta region. Collaboratively, these influential entities are helping to raise confidence in the vaccinations and simultaneously dispel mistruths being widely propagated by some anti-vaxxers. This effort is seen as paramount as COVID-19 has once again risen meteorically during the summer of 2021, causing alarm among local and national health officials. 

On Monday, Aug. 30, Dunn and the NFL Alumni Association met up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Fulton County Health Department’s Mobile Vaccination Clinic to host a free vaccine event at Georgia State University’s Center Parc Stadium. 

The purpose of the community event, strategically hosted in downtown Atlanta, was to further inculcate urbanites on the importance of getting vaccinated, provide public service announcements and host local events such as this one with health connoisseurs. 

Dunn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, one of which came during his spectacular tenure as the running back for the Atlanta Falcons from 2002-2008, is now part-owner of the team. Through his leadership, officials hope that he will help Atlantans figuratively and literally “Rise Up” and get protection against the most formidable communicable disease in over 100 years.  

“I don’t have a philosophy, per se, about being involved in the community. It’s all about helping others,” Dunn said humbly about his philosophical outlook on giving and contributing to the community uplift. “This initiative is about educating the community as to why they should get the vaccination and get over their hesitancy, to really trust what their doctors have to say” about getting inoculated.” 

Former Falcons long-snapper Josh Harris said that the day was devoted to fellowship and fun while simultaneously helping officials provide a health benefit to a large swath of the populace who are not yet vaccinated. 

“First and foremost, you know, we’re here to benefit Atlanta, and we also have the opportunity for people to get the shot if they want to be vaccinated,” Harris told The Atlanta Voice. “Then you know, they can take care of that while they’re here as well. But we’re just here to enjoy the day, fellowship a little bit and play some games.” 

Harris met up with other ex-Falcons to bolster the efforts of the CDC and local health officials, including former defensive end Mike Pitts, former defensive tackle Andrew Provence, and Jason Webster, a former Falcons cornerback. The event featured a cornhole set-up, free lunch from Chick-fil-A, health screenings and free COVID-19 vaccines.

Andrew Bolton, former RB for Detroit and Seattle and president of the NFL Alumni Georgia Chapter, conveyed the enormous importance of Atlantans getting immunization against a debilitating disease. He implored those who are hesitant to get the inoculation to consult with their physicians to alleviate the trepidations surrounding the vaccine.  

“We are trying to come together collectively as neighbors, as community charity organizations, and to try to make sure that people are getting vaccinated. You know, it’s important that you get your shots,” Bolton said. 

 Dexter Davis, a former CB for the Falcons and Rams and current team chaplain for the Falcons, added that “getting folks vaccinated is near and dear to everybody’s heart. And we wanted to come out and add value to our community.”

Atlanta Falcons icon Warrick Dunn, in the maroon shirt, with members of the CDC, Atlanta Department of Health and members of the community at Georgia State University's Center Parc Stadium. (Photo Credit: Terry Shropshire/The Atlanta Voice)