The same town that he fought hard to escape growing up will be the town he returns to this weekend.
For the first time in his college career, Florida Gators wide receiver Quinton Dunbar is making an emotional return to his hometown. This time playing against the Miami Hurricanes, the team he coveted while growing up.
The Gators redshirt junior, former Miami commit and Booker T. Washington High School standout grew up an avid Hurricanes fan during their dynasty era of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s under Butch Davis, Larry Coker and Randy Shannon. Like most kids from South Beach, his dream was to, one day, play college ball in the orange and green.
But the dream to escape the 305 outweighed the opportunity to suit up for his hometown university. Dunbar grew up in a part of Miami that is never mentioned about in the Magic City. The imagery of young children growing up in a world full of gun violence, drugs and poverty all throughout their childhood and searching for a way to escape that kind of lifestyle.
Dunbar has traveled down a broken road to get to Gainesville, experiencing friends dying in his Overtown neighborhood and the effects of growing up in that kind of situation and trying to take a step forward to something better.
In his redshirt junior season, Dunbar has taken a step forward and separated himself as the Gator’s leading receiver among a young wide receiver’s group. He has garnered praise by Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease with his improvements in his route running and taking on a more vocal leadership role as an upperclassman this season.
Dunbar will be counted on this season as quarterback Jeff Driskel’s go-to receiver downfield. He is coming off a career season that saw him come down with 36 receptions for 383 yards while scoring eight touchdowns in 2012. He also had a career game against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl with five snags for 77 yards. He has that great leaping ability that could be used effectively in Pease’s offense in goal line situations.
This game will be a big test for the Miami native as the featured receiver for the Gators at Sun Life on Saturday afternoon. He will have lots of family and friends cheering him on. The big stage of playing in his hometown will also be a test for Dunbar and a few Gators from the Miami area. Playing his cousin, Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman, has to be tough for the junior as well.
But Dunbar shouldn’t see Saturday’s game against Miami as being personal to him.
Whichever great program he ultimately decided to play for, Miami or Florida, the young man has come a long way to get where he’s at now. The truth is that most kids don’t escape and survive the circumstances he grew up in and make a better life for himself and his family when he plays in the NFL a year or two from now.