August 14, 2013
Walk-on OL Dunn rising up the ranks
Two-years ago, Michael Dunn was an obscure senior offensive lineman from nearby Walt Whitman High School searching for a place to continue his football career. With little BCS interest and a few Division I-AA offers in hand, Dunn was a set to sign his National Letter of Intent to Lehigh. But on the way to Bethlehem, Pa., Dunn got a call from Maryland assistant coach Tom Brittan a week before Signing Day.
The message to Dunn was very clear: Brattan said he needed to talk to Dunn and wanted to get him down for a campus visit. Although Dunn explained to the Terps' offensive line coach that his decision was set, Brattan asked if he could delay his decision until after they spoke in College Park.
"I was kind of surprised that Coach Brattan called me," Dunn said. "All he said was that he wanted to offer me the chance to be a preferred walk-on. He really didn't promise me anything but the chance to be on the team."
Dunn continued to Lehigh for the visit, but he didn't make his commitment. A few days later, he was at Maryland accepting Brattan's offer.
"It was my dream to play here at Maryland," Dunn said after a recent practice. "He didn't say that I would get an offer someday, [he] only [said] that if I worked hard that anything could happen.
"I knew that if I chose Maryland I would need to put in a lot of work. I was coming in with poor technique, not big or fast enough. It wasn't going to be easy."
But Brattan saw something in Dunn that the former Whitman lineman probably didn't realize, namely his work ethic.
"He [told] me that he knew I had the work ethic to make it here," Dunn said. "He always tells me to make strides a little at a time and it will work."
Heading into his second season in College Park, Dunn is No. 2 on the Terps' offensive line depth chart behind right tackle Nick Klemm.
But while he's risen up the ranks, it wasn't an easy ride for Dunn the past year.
"It was really hard for me as a walk-on last year. I knew that I wasn't big enough or strong enough to play at this level," he said. "I was getting beat all of the time and trying to rely on what I learned in high school. The season on the scout team was humbling, but I learned a lot and just kept myself to work hard and god things will come."
Dunn put in the work this past winter, adding 15-pounds to his frame, building on his weight-lifting numbers and trimming his times in several categories. It all translated to the field, where he impressed the staff this spring.
He continued to improve his numbers during preseason workouts this summer, and his efforts seem to be paying dividends. After starting out on the third team, he eventually worked his way into the top two groups. In fact, five practices into August camp, Dunn was still working with the twos and getting some reps with the starters.
"Dunn is one that jumps out," Brattan said. "He's definitely had a good summer."
The 6-foot-5, 300 pounder said his relentless work in the weight room has been the key to building himself up.
"I decided after the season that I was going to outwork everybody," he said. "It took a few weeks, but I started to feel good about how things were working out. I liked how quick I was getting and after spring practice I kept it up.
"My pro agility time right now is around 4.7 and my 10-yard dash has really improved and is under two [seconds] right now. I maxed out in the bench press 385 [pounds], eight times. I just feel a lot stronger, and I know I'm faster now."
The local lineman also paid particular attention to his form and fundamentals. He said he became an overall more sound football player.
"I was punching better, my hands were a lot better and my footwork improved," Dunn said.
This past offseason was about more than just hitting the weights and honing his craft, however. Dunn said he had to learn how to eat better and to take better care of his body. He started drinking protein shakes and eating healthier, and that had a major impact on his game.
"It was a huge change for me," said Dunn, who loves playing the video game Madden during his spare time, "but I think it's for the better."
Though he hasn't played in any actual games yet, Dunn gave a glimpse of his potential during the spring game. Though some coaches praised his performance, Dunn actually gave himself a "C" grade for that performance. But he said his work during the spring and summer was "B" level or higher.
"Now, I just have to keep practicing more and keep doing what I'm doing," he said.
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