Like you said, I've had a lot of problems with injuries and the biggest thing for me now is. You know, before it was like, say last season this time, "Ah, if I get injured, I've got to sit out another year and hopefully I don't get injured my senior year." I happened to make it through the whole year, so that wasn't a problem. But, now, it's my fifth year, I'm a senior, this is it, so it doesn't matter. If I get injured, I get injured. It's really a big burden off my shoulders.
But you've said in the past that you worried about injuries.
Well, I did. But, like I said, that was because I still had a college career in front of me. Now, this is it. It's do-or-die. It doesn't matter to me, the injuries. I just want to go out and play and have fun.
So do you play freer?
Yeah. Yeah. It's like getting that big monkey off my back finally.
So what motivates you now?
What motivates me? H-m-m-m. Honestly, what motivates me is the amount of talent and the amount of character guys I have around me. It starts with the other fifth-year seniors, the guys with me in my class. We've been through so much and we've seen this program progress so much that, and not only that, we've seen the amount of talent progress so much, that I honestly think this is the year that we win the Big Ten championship and we get a major bowl game. That's what motivates me right there.
Do you fifth-years discuss this among yourselves?
Oh, yeah. Sure. All the time. That's what we expect. If we don't do that, we're letting ourselves down. That's our feeling, the leadership on the team. That's our mentality.
And you've turned into more of a leader yourself this year, haven't you?
I like to think so.
And why's that? Health? Age?
I think it's both, but especially health. Just being around the guys more, not being in the training room hurt all the time. That helps.
I've often heard that when a player's injured, he doesn't really feel part of the team. Is that part of it?
Well, yeah. It's kind of like the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind." If you're not working out with the guys, they'll forget you. They don't see the work you're putting in (during rehab). Then you start yelling at them, or you start trying to coach them up, and from their point of view it's very easy to see why (they might think), "Why's this guy yelling at me? What's he doing?"
And, as a senior now, do you ever think back to the start, to what your aspirations were then, to what it was like then.
Yeah, I do, especially these first couple days of camp when you're watching the freshmen out there. Their minds are racing, they're drop-jawed, they're wide-eyed, they're kind of hanging on every word coach says. I remember being there, but 2007's so long ago now.
But when you look back and then consider the present, are you happy, surprised, regretful that you had all those injuries?
I'd say I'm happy. I don't have any regrets. At this point, like you said, you asked if I had any fears of getting hurt again. At this point, I don't have that. I finally don't have that chip on my shoulder. I finally had an off-season workout. And for personal reasons, for selfish reasons, I'm very excited for this season. So looking back on it, I've learned a lot physically and mentally, and I'm just really excited.
What's the biggest thing you did learn?
There's things in life you can't control and, to counter that, there's things in life you can do to gain as much control as you can. There was an instance my sophomore year, I put my foot in the ground and my knee popped. There was nothing I could have done about it. But from that I also learned there were things in my off-season lifting program I could have done to strengthen the muscles in my knee. So you learn from that and you progress and you strengthen those muscles and you get injured again and you learn from that and then you do other things differently.
Do you have a greater appreciation for your opportunity after enduring all those injuries?
I do. When I'm done this year, I want to be able to look back and think about what fun it was. Injuries are part of the game and, like I said, they're great lessons in life to learn from, being injured and recovering.
And now, can you say just how much fun it is to be pain free?
You don't understand. You have no idea. It's great.
Back in 2006 and 2007, as it made its way to a pair of NCAA
basketball championships, Florida featured three players whose dads had been professional athletes
(current Bull Joakim Noah among them). Often, during those seasons, Gator
coach Billy Donovan said he thought that had been advantageous for that trio,
that they had learned through nothing more than observation just what it took
to be a successful athlete. We relay that memory to Drake Dunsmore and then
wonder if it helped that his dad Pat was a tight end on the Bears' team that
won the 1986 Super Bowl.
Most of all, the way he helped me through injuries and the way he's been a father around the game. Most of the time I think people would think if you had a father who played in the NFL, played college ball, he'd be coaching you all the time, he'd be wanting to put his two-cents in. But I'm the one who calls my dad once or twice a week. We talk about football, we talk about how work's going, but he never, ever, pushes his two-cents on me. He'll tell me what he thinks, he'll give me an opinion if I ask. But he never pushed any coaching points on me, he never pushed his opinions on me. I think, for me, that helped me become my own man. That helped me pick and choose what matters to me.
But did you learn by osmosis, by just watching your dad?
I wasn't alive when he played. But, yeah, there definitely was that. Ever since i can remember, he'd get up at five in the morning and go work out, six-days-a-week. If there was ever a job around the house that needed work, he would do it and he would do it until it got done. Certain lessons like that I think he learned growing up through sports, and I think that definitely had an effect on my life.
Herm Edwards, the former Jet coach who's now an analyst, once said that his daddy would always say, "When you're cleaning the floor", make sure you take care of the corners."
So you've known how to work from the start.
Now we share another story with Drake Dunsmore, this one about a former runner named Frank Shorter. Back in 1969, when he was a senior at Yale, some three weeks separated his graduation and the NCAA Championships, and he chose to use that time to train assiduously. He didn't want to look back as an old man, he would later explain, and wonder just how good he could be, and that attitude propelled him to the 10,000 meter title at those championships and, ultimately, to the marathon gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. So we wonder, as he enters his senior year, if part of Dunsmore's motivation is "Not wanting to leave anything on the table."
Sure. It's as simple as that. Yeah. That's definitely a motivating factor.
Is it the same with all the fifth-years?
Yeah. I've heard (quarterback) Dan (Persa) say that. Jack DiNardo (the defensive lineman). Brian Peters (the safety). I've heard all those guys actually say that.
They don't want to look back and have any regrets because they didn't do this, didn't do that. Then you see them do it. You see them putting in the extra hours.
Speaking of Brian, when I asked him about you he said, "He doesn't really buy in too much to what everybody else thinks about him." What's he mean by that?
Honestly, that's kind of the spirit of our whole team. Every year, we're the underdogs. Every year, no one gives us credit. Every year, we're put middle-of-the-pack to back-of-the-pack. In order for us to become the team we have, that's the mentality we have to have. So when people in the media or outside the program discredit what we've done, that pushes us further. We don't care what other people say. Brian doesn't care what other people say, he doesn't care if someone's saying another safety's better than him. He's going to go out and do his thing, he's going to do what needs to be done.
So do you all have chips on your shoulders?
I'd say so.
A collective chip?
Brian also said of you, "He's confident is what he is." What about that?
I try to be humble. But, yeah. I think anyone's who's successful in college football at the Division I level, they have to be confident in what they're doing.