Oakdale, LA (KPLC) – Darion Dunn’s NFL dreams are within reach.
The Oakdale native and former McNeese Cowboy will attend rookie minicamp this week on a tryout basis with the New York Jets with the hope of sticking around on the roster.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to me. It’s all I ever wanted. A shot is all anyone ever really wants, so that’s all I can ask for and I’m grateful for it,” said Dunn. “I’ve just been training really, really hard and I’m just hoping all of it pays off.”
NFL teams are allowed to hold a post-draft rookie minicamp to further evaluate their drafted rookies alongside undrafted rookies with the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
Each team invites dozens of rookies to the camp with usually only a few getting the chance to stick around.
Dunn understands it’s a long shot.
“My focus this weekend is just believing in everything I’ve done and been taught. I know I’ve trained very hard for this moment all my life,” said Dunn. ‘I didn’t get drafted, but it still doesn’t change anything. The chip on my shoulder would still be the same if I got drafted. I’d still have to prove myself once I get there. That’s what I’m focused on— just getting better every day and proving that I belong.”
Dunn proved he belonged at the college level after being lightly recruited out of Oakdale High School.
Dunn was a HERO Sports FCS Preseason All-American and first-team All-Southland Conference selection at McNeese after leading the Cowboys with five interceptions in 2019. He also ranked third in the Southland with 16 total passes defended and was fifth with 11 pass break-ups.
In his Cowboy career, Dunn made 35 starts, recorded seven interceptions, and posted 83 tackles as well as 20 pass breakups.
Following four standout years with the Pokes, Dunn wanted a new challenge at the Power Five level— so he transferred to Texas.
Unfortunately for Dunn, just days after signing with Texas for its 2021 recruiting class, the school fired its head football coach, Tom Herman. Despite hiring Steve Sarkisian, Dunn said he felt comfortable enough to still head to Austin for his senior year.
“I was planning on playing at Texas a lot more than I did,” admitted Dunn. “I’m pretty sure that hurt me going there. But I can’t be mad at them. It was a brand new staff coming in and I guess they just didn’t see me being the guy there. I did what I could, but I wouldn’t take anything back. I had a great experience there and I met a lot of good people. I don’t hold anything against anyone.”
This past season at Texas was a struggle for Dunn to see the field. Despite appearing in all 12 games, he made just one start registering 22 tackles, one forced fumble and two
“Going there really did increase the chip on my shoulder man, especially sitting on the sideline after being a starter at McNeese for four years. Going to a bigger university and being on the bench was kind of a hard pill to swallow,” said Dunn. “But it’s better to be a team player than a selfish player. I just wanted to win.”
He then faced another setback at his pro day on March 10.
Dunn, an all-conference track star at McNeese, ran a 4.69 40-time
“I didn’t really run as well as I wanted to. I think that hurt me a lot because what I heard a lot from a lot of teams is if I would have ran better, I would have had a better shot at getting drafted or being signed right after the draft,” admitted Dunn, “But it just wasn’t my day that day. I’ll just move on from it and build from it. I have to have short-term memory loss, especially at the corner position.”
Dunn is hopeful to take advantage of the opportunity that is laid before him and become the first NFL player from Oakdale.
“This means the world to me. There are so many kids [in Oakdale] I want to encourage to do more. They don’t even have to be an athlete. Go do something great with yourself like, go to college and get a degree,” said Dunn. “I’d just really like to do that and I really want to look out for my family, my mom and my siblings.”
Dunn said if the NFL doesn’t work out for him, he will pursue roster spots in the CFL, USFL and CFL.
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