Former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn will be reunited with Derrick Brooks — his teammate both at Florida State and with the Bucs — when they work together Sunday as "Legends" captains for the NFC squad in Sunday's Pro Bowl in Orlando.
"When they call you 'Legend,' it means you're getting old," Dunn said of his honorary title. "Captain? That means you're past your time. I'm honored. I'm humbled. Thankful that people think of me enough to ask me to represent the NFC and the NFL and be hopefully a guy who can engage with the younger guys and be there to assist them in any way possible."
It's now been 20 years since Dunn's rookie year — he made the Pro Bowl that first year in 1997, again with the Bucs in 2000 and with the Falcons in 2005. He was the youngest Pro Bowl selection that first year at age 22, allowing to overlap with an older generation of players now in the Hall of Fame.
"My rookie year, I got a chance to see guys that went to 10 straight Pro Bowls, legendary players," said Dunn, who rushed for 4,986 yards in six seasons with the Bucs, still third in franchise history. "To be around those guys, to see them and talk to them in a home environment, with people they love and care about. You get to know them as individuals. Those guys cherish that and you realize what's important.
"I got a chance to meet Barry (Sanders) and hang around with them. I didn't just stay at my position. I hung out with defensive backs, with linebackers, defensive linemen. You get a chance to really engage guys, to get to know their work ethic. Guys are just silly, too. They like to have fun. They love their craft, but they are human. They have personalities and it's great to see that."
More from Dunn on this week's Pro Bowl and other topics …
What does it mean to get to do this with a friend and teammate in Derrick Brooks?
"I love Derrick. I love what he stands for. I couldn't be with a better person. To share the stage with him, this is pretty neat. I'm thankful to be in a position to do that. It'll be good to be with him and create more memories."
Does the Pro Bowl have less luster in Orlando than when it meant a trip to Hawaii?
"I think it still means a lot. It may not be Hawaii, but it's better centrally located, so you can still enjoy teammates, make new friends. Your family gets a great experience with Walt Disney World and so forth. I still think it's great. It's always an honor to be selected by your peers, the media and fans to represent the National Football League. I still think it's pretty awesome to be a part of."
You've been a vocal supporter of Jameis Winston, going back to his FSU days and when the Bucs drafted him in 2015. What have you seen from him, and what's next for him as he progresses as a young quarterback?
"I still think he's talented. It's time for him to take that step, that leap. It's time for him to be what everyone wants him to be, to make sure he's consistent. We know he's a vocal leader, but I think now, people don't want to hear the vocal as much; they want to see the action on the field. I think he has an opportunity to take over games. He's going to work hard this offseason, as he did last year. Having the head coach and coordinator with him again gives him an opportunity to really start taking himself to that next level, being in the upper echelon of the quarterbacks in this league."
You would have interacted with Dirk Koetter during his three years in Atlanta. Fans were divided on whether he should have been brought back for 2018 after going 5-11 this season, but how do you feel about what he can be as the Bucs' head coach?
"I think he's a good offensive coordinator. I'm not there to see the day-to-day head coaching, but when you look at the Buccaneers, they lost a lot of close games, a play here or there early in the season where if they make that play, they win that game. The outcome is a lot different. The record is a lot different. You give him the benefit of the doubt. You can't just all fault the head coach. The players need to go out and execute and make plays. I think they're close. There's opportunity for him to correct things: How can we look at these plays, these situations, and move forward and make the outcome from Ls to Ws. He's going to do that. They have to make sure they have a consistent running game. They have decisions to make, but they need to get the most out of their quarterback. They have a lot of playmakers on defense, so the opportunity is there."
You went into the Falcons Ring of Honor this year, and you're a lot like John Lynch, who had a great career with two teams and went into the Broncos and Bucs rings the same year. How much would it mean to you to go into the Bucs Ring of Honor?
"It would mean a lot. That's where my career started. I was a part of the early years, building the foundation of the team. I would mean a lot. I don't think that's going to happen, but it would mean a lot. There's a group of guys, we went out there and we fought. Playing with Mike Alstott, I knew what he meant to the organization and to the city. It wasn't just the defense, it was guys on offense that put in a lot. I've always tried to play with the mentality that I put it on the line for the community and my teammates. I thought I did that, even when I came back that last year. I gave them everything I had, and I wish I could have played another year. It's in the past. I would be thankful, but I don't think that's going to happen."