BERLIN - Growing up in Berlin, Kevin Dunn always wanted to play football for UConn.
Now, the former Redcoats star will get the chance.
Dunn, who led the Berlin football team to the Class M championship game against St. Joseph in 2018, committed to the Huskies on Monday, giving the program a collection of local talent that already includes a handful of former Southington standouts such as Jasen Rose, Tim O’Shea and Jacob Flynn.
“Growing up in Connecticut my whole life and playing football, it’s one of those dreams you hope for,” Dunn told The Herald. “And some things fell into place and I got to take action with that and do it.”
Dunn will join the Huskies as a wide receiver after spending last season with Sacred Heart, a member of the Northeast Conference, which plays at a division lower than UConn does. The Pioneers play at the FCS level, the Huskies in the FBS as an independent.
It will be interesting to see what Dunn, who announced his transfer from Sacred Heart on July 20, is able to bring to UConn. Last season, the Huskies had 14 players catch just 228 passes for 2,592 yards and 14 touchdowns in a 2-10 campaign, its final one as a member of the American Athletic Conference. Overall, the team ranked 81st in the country in passing, directly behind schools such as Ohio, Kent State, Northern Illinois and New Mexico State.
Dunn, listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, for his part, didn’t get the chance to show his skillset at Sacred Heart. Not only was he making the transition from quarterback, which he played in his final two years at Berlin, to wide receiver, he didn’t record a stat or play in a game as the Pioneers went 7-5. But even for the lack of playing time and learning a new position, he viewed 2019 as an important year nonetheless.
“I really found out how much I love the game,” Dunn said. “If you’re not really bought into it and just going through the motions, it’s not the thing for you. You have to really buy into the process and buy into the work, and that means 6 a.m. lifts and 9 p.m. study halls aren’t easy if you don’t love what you’re doing. I learned how much I love the sport and continue doing this.”
Dunn will also get some time to get acclimated to the higher level of competition, learn a new campus - he’s currently figuring out his classes and living situation - learn a new playbook and continue to develop his skills as a wide receiver. The Huskies won’t be playing football in 2020 after becoming to the first FBS program to cancel football due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But for as much as he has to do and get to know over the coming months, Dunn has been working all summer to make sure that transitions continues to go as smoothly as possible. Dunn spent time this offseason working on his route running and fine tuning other small details with former UConn and current Green Bay Packers quarterback Tim Boyle.
“Tim and [Berlin assistant football coach] Max DeLorenzo were at UConn together for a year I think and they stayed in touch and one day Max just hit me up and was like, ‘Hey do you want to throw with Tim and get some work in?’ and I was all for that, to work with somebody at that level,” Dunn said.
Suddenly, one throwing session quickly turned into two and then three and then a whole lot more over the course of quarantine, allowing Dunn focus on the nuances of playing the position. It helps that Dunn played quarterback making him learn and see more than any other player on the field in high school. In his last season in a Redcoats uniform, he completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,204 yards and 28 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
But it also helps having a player who completes at the highest level and is the backup to Aaron Rodgers teaching you as well.
“It’s a lot different,” Dunn said of working with an NFL quarterback. “Those first couple of slant routes really get up on you real quick and definitely took some time to get used to, but towards the end, it was great work. I got used to the ball speed, which was a big thing. I was able to work on my hands and my route running. At that level, the routes have to be so exact, so it make me focus on route depth and how many steps and when to get my head around.”
“Tim is a great teacher,” he continued. “He’s great at showing us what he wants and how the Packers run their offense. To be able to replicate a system like that and tell you this is what [Pro-Bowl receiver] Davante Adams does, it’s a great teaching tool and helps you get better at your craft.”
Now, Dunn is looking to see how much that work will pay dividends. But he also said the work he needs to do is done yet, but is ready for the challenge ahead. After all, that’s what football is about.
“I’m just excited to get to work and get in the weight room and in the system for a year before we start playing,” Dunn said. “I think the UConn program is on the rise. They’re getting a lot of in-state talent coming to Storrs so they can build that program.”
Add Dunn to that list.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org