By: Barry Barnes, Founder
If success was easy to obtain, like discouragement, there would be no value, no motivation. Opportunity does not always present itself in a gift box filled with wonderful options. Normally, an opportunity is created following a personal change.
Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar followed up on some changes and, now, his opportunities have transformed him.
“He (Redskins head coach Jay Gruden) spotted me,” Dunbar stated via conversation. “I was on offense and he was like, ‘have you played defensive back before?’ I said, ‘no, not really.’ I haven’t played (defensive back) since high school. I played a little bit there and little league. Since then, he took me under his wing, man.”
Each year, countless collegiate football players desire the opportunity to workout for a club in hopes to sign with an NFL team, especially if they have not been sighted as a draft prospect. Dunbar was among the majority in 2015.
Following his time at the University of Florida as a wide receiver, Dunbar attended the Miami-held NFL Regional Combine in 2015 and excelled from there.
“Attending the (NFL) regional combine was a tremendous step for me,” Dunbar expressed. “Going to the regional combine, and not getting invited to the real combine, helped me big time.”
Still, opportunity appeared to stop knocking.
“I remember going through the process, going to training and seeing guys driving the cars after being drafted,” said Dunbar. “I was happy for those guys, but it was motivation for me. I would tell myself I’m going to get into that position. I didn’t know how, but I was. And I used that and the process as motivation.”
After the exposure to the RC and staying faithful to the process, the Redskins signed the 6-2, 198-pound receiver. At the time, the Redskins were deep at the receiving position, but lacked depth in the secondary due to injuries and questionable performances.
Clearly, that’s when Gruden confidently approached Dunbar for the change that provided the opportunity of a lifetime.
And a mentorship.
“I look at Jay Gruden as a dad, honestly man,” said Dunbar. “I talk to him about everything. I really respect him as a man. He cares for the players. He’s a great guy.”
Since the conversion, Dunbar has filled the stat sheet as he registered 74 tackles (64 solos), including 18 passes defensed, three interceptions, one fumble recovery and one sack in a span of 40 games.
“I think D-Hall (DeAngelo Hall) went down and we had a couple other injuries in the secondary and we needed some people in one-on-ones over there,” said Gruden on moving Dunbar to cornerback. “I saw Dunbar playing on punt – cover team – and he was blocking the flyers and doing extremely well. He was long so I threw him out there and put a jersey on him and he did pretty well. We kept him out over there and he’s developed.”
The Redskins occasionally take advantage of Dunbar’s receiving skill set. In Week 3 of the 2016 season against the New York Giants when they were down 24-23 with 3:17 left in the third quarter, the Redskins decided to seize the moment.
In punt formation, the Redskins faked the execution and punter Tress Way threw a 31-yard completion to Dunbar. In that same contest, one of Dunbar’s interceptions was a game-saving pick.
Facing first-and-10 from the Redskins’ 15-yard line with 13:42 remaining in the game, Giants quarterback Eli Manning dropped back and threw over the middle towards the endzone to tight end Will Tye. Dunbar undercut Tye and extended his left hand for a one-handed interception.
Apparently, that was when Gruden knew he had something in the fearless Dunbar.
“He thinks he can cover anybody, anytime, anywhere,” said Gruden. “And that’s a great mentality to have as a corner and that’s the way he feels. He’s been out here at practice covering DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon last year, and this year with all these other guys. He’s just line ‘em up. He’s just bump and run.”
“That’s the mindset that he has and that’s a great mindset to have,” Gruden added. “He’s got a short memory. If he does get beat, he’ll come right back up and play bump and run and cover you. We’re excited to watch him play.”
“Dunbar is a great kid and great things will happen for him, believe that.”
Although Dunbar has received praises since then, he understands that there is much more to learn.
“Everybody always says I’m a wonderful talent. My speed, my size and things like that, but that can only take you so far,” said Dunbar, humbly. “I try to work on everything every day. Playing receiver, I can read concepts. It’s overall the knowledge of the game.
“It’s (football) more mental than physical because, at the end of the day, everything is about leverage because you want to make a play,” he continued. “When you play from a talent standpoint, you will make some plays, but you also give up some plays.”
In the midst of Dunbar’s progression, the Redskins signed Dunbar to a multi-year extension on New Year’s day.
Dunbar is the latest pioneer from the NFL Regional Combine platform who signed a multi-year extension. Pro Bowlers in Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva and Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker inked for millions of dollars, along with Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts.
The terms of Dunbar’s deal were not disclosed, however, his commitment to change from one side of the field to the other has literally paid off.
“I credit this organization and the guys in this locker room,” voiced Dunbar. “I try to seize every moment because, from where I’m from, many of us don’t get this opportunity. Just believe in yourself, be laser focused and believe in the process because anything is possible.”