Kate Dunn found herself in a dark place just two years ago.
After taking hit after hit – brain surgery, her parents’ divorce and being bullied and harassed at school --- Dunn said she didn’t have much to live for.
So, after immersing herself in everything Griffin III – including the Heisman Trophy Award winner’s career at Baylor and his NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012 – Dunn started writing a letter to the quarterback that she hoped she could personally deliver one day.
That day finally came Wednesday.
Griffin III – still clad in his gold No. 10 jersey – emerged into a conference room at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., where his team had just completed its ninth day of OTA practices, and met the 16-year-old from nearby Falls Church, Va.
“That was unbelievable,” Dunn recalled Wednesday afternoon. “I saw him, and honestly I had to put my head down on the table just to try to remind myself it was real, because this was a moment that I've been dreaming about for so long now. To see him there, in person, was just amazing.”
Little did Dunn know that she had made just as big of an impact on Griffin III as he did on her.
“When I walked into the room she kind of broke down and she got a little teary-eyed and overcome with emotion,” Griffin III said. “For about the first two or three minutes, she just couldn’t tell me what her story was and how I impacted her, but after that she really opened up and you could really see how much it meant for us to do this for her.”
Dunn said her life had little value in 2012.
So with her daughter’s world seemingly crashing in around her, Dunn’s mother, Amanda, a Redskins fan, saw an opportunity after her favorite team traded up to draft a talented, exciting quarterback with the No. 2-overall selection that April.
“My mom sat me down and said, 'Look at this kid. He's amazing,’” Dunn said. “I watched the game and I saw how it was really complicated, and I thought, 'OK, maybe football isn't just a bunch of muscular guys running into each other.'”
Football became Dunn’s passion. She even tried to spark her own playing career as a quarterback, but had to cancel those plans after her neurosurgeon advised against it.
Once again, Dunn was at a crossroads.
“That was really disappointing,” Dunn said. “But my mom sat me down and said, 'What do you think Robert Griffin III would do? Would he just give up, or would he find another way to do it?'”
With a growing knowledge of football – and of the quarterback position – Dunn decided to get into coaching instead.
She said she got a hold of about a dozen coaching books to become a true student of the game.
“I'm just learning as much as I can,” Dunn said. “I have at least two five-subject-styled notebooks just filled with play diagrams and drills and everything. I'm trying to do my best to make it happen.”
Dunn got her start coaching youth football teams, and recently began a coaching internship with the Georgetown football squad.
Dunn wanted to personally thank Griffin III for helping save her life, so she took out a piece of paper and started writing.
When she was done, everywhere she went, she took the note with her – just hoping to get the chance to run into Griffin III.
She thought she might get that chance at the Redskins’ Draft Day Party May 10 at FedExField, but a meeting with Griffin III that day just wasn’t in the cards.
So Dunn took to Twitter that day and wrote to the quarterback, who has more than 1.1 million followers.
“I just wanted (to) give @RGIII the letter I’ve been carrying around in case I meet him somewhere – to thank him for inspiring me to coach football,” she wrote.
One day later, Griffin III responded.
“(Let’s) get you up to Redskin Park!!!,” he wrote, providing Dunn with the Twitter handles of the Redskins and the team’s Charitable Foundation.
Staying true to his word – and with the help of the WCF – Dunn was brought in as a special guest at Wednesday’s practice.
And afterwards, it was there, in the team’s conference room, where Dunn was finally able to give the note to Griffin III.
“When they walked into the conference room she gave me the note and it was pretty worn down,” Griffin III said. “She said she kept it in a plastic bag for over a year and kept it with her just in case she ever ran into me.”
What’s in the letter? Well that’s between Dunn and Griffin III, the quarterback said, but he said he’ll keep it forever in a special place.
“It’ll go somewhere where I can always find it,” Griffin III said. “It’ll go somewhere where I can always say, ‘Alright, if I’m lacking in motivation to continue to do the right thing, I can go to this letter and look at this girl who said I saved her life.’ It’s people like that that really make you do what you do.”
Griffin III said he’s blessed to have a platform like football to impact others’ lives in such a positive fashion. When he’s on the field or in front of the cameras, he said he’s cognizant of what he’s saying, because someone’s always watching.
“With power, they always say, comes great responsibility,” he said. “It’s not about the love or the attention; it’s the fact that you want to show the fans love and that they are appreciated.”
Griffin III knows all about the impact a hero can make. He said he idolized basketball star Michael Jordan growing up, and had the chance to attend one of his basketball camps as a child.
“I had a chance to be on the court with the greatest of all time, and that meant a lot to me,” Griffin III recalled. “Even though I didn’t get an autograph or shake his hand, he still impacted my life in a certain way.”
An inspiration to others
Just two years ago, Kate Dunn was a 14-year-old girl struggling to find value in life.
Fast forward to today, and not only has she sparked a career as a football coach, but she’s formed a friendship with her hero and favorite player.
Dunn hopes her story can inspire other teenagers facing similar problems.
“It’s just a dream come true,” she said. “Robert always tells everyone to "know your why" and to "go catch your dream," and the reason I'm doing it is not just because I love the game, but because I just want to help people that were in the same position I was.”
Dunn said she’s going to take advantage of her “new beginning.”
“It really seemed like there was no hope, and then you come across something, like I came across football and Robert Griffin III,” she said. “You have something to look forward to and something to live for, and I just hope I can let other people have that same moment.”