Longhorn runner battles back from injury

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com


   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Webster's Dictionary says that a conqueror is someone who overcomes.
   Johnson County tailback Jonah Dunn fits the definition perfectly.
   Dunn has battled back from what might of been a career-ending knee injury, and expects to be in the starting lineup when the Longhorns host South Greene on Aug. 30.
   Dunn was injured during the Longhorns' final regular season game last season against Sullivan South at Paul H. McEwen Stadium.
   Dunn remembers the play well.
   "I took a handoff and was going to the left side," Dunn said. "A guy just dove on me and caught me on the side of the knee."
   Dunn tore his ACL and MCL on that play.
   That play ended what had been a great season for Dunn. Dunn, who was only a sophomore last year, had stepped into the starting lineup and tallied several 100-yard rushing games.
   Dunn missed the rest of the season, and then a long rehabilitation process started.
   "It was tough work," Dunn said. "I had to tough through it. It hurt and everything. It was real stiff. I wasn't going to play this year, but I've played for the longest time so why stop now."
   Dunn decided to come back out, but the injury is still on his mind in practice.
   "I'm afraid to take the ball a little bit every once in awhile," Dunn said. "Taking one to the corner is what I'm a lot more afraid of. It doesn't even bother me to take one up the middle. I'm pretty used to taking it up the middle."
   Dunn seems to be back near full strength now. He credits some good workouts for that.
   "I just ran," Dunn said. "I conditioned with the team. Staying in the gym is one thing that you've got to do. You can't get out of that.
   Johnson County is a close-knit community that's passionate about Longhorn football. Football is in Dunn's blood, and so is helping his friends on the team.
   Dunn knew he didn't want to let his Longhorn teammates down by not coming out for the football team.
   "I knew they needed me," Dunn said. "They would do all right without me, but I wanted to play just in case somebody gets hurt. I would be there to back them up."
   The extra work that Dunn put in may make him an even more dangerous runner the next couple of years.
   Dunn has bulked up, and looks to be in great shape heading into the start of a new season.
   "I'm a whole lot stronger now," Dunn said. "My knee is a whole lot stronger. I feel like I'm faster, and a little bit quicker. I'll be all right."
   Dunn may not be quite at 100 percent yet, but he is getting there.
   Dunn's improved so much that he expects to be starting against the Rebels in three weeks.
   "If everything goes all right," Dunn said. "If practice keeps going all right. We've got a few scrimmages, and I'll see what I can do there."
   Dunn wants to do all he can to get the Longhorns back to the playoffs.
   And this year, Dunn wants to participate in those playoffs.
   Dunn missed the game with Morristown West in 2001. He doesn't want that to happen again this season.
   "I want to do that," Dunn said. "I was real disappointed. I was wanting to be part of it. I had to sit on the sideline and watch."
   Dunn thinks that the Longhorns can not only go back to the playoffs, but believes that they can finish higher than the fourth place spot they patrolled in the Mountain Lakes last year.
   "We plan on it," Dunn said.
   Overall, Dunn is happy to be back in the Longhorn football family.
   "I didn't know if I wanted to play football or not," Dunn said. "Now that I'm out, I'm glad I did come out. I've got my friends, and all my friends play football. I want to hang out with them."