An Open Letter to Carlos Dunlap: Thank you, Employee 96

An Open Letter to Carlos Dunlap: Thank you, Employee 96
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After a successful collegiate career and national championship at the University of Florida, Carlos Dunlap’s NFL dreams came true when the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the 54th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The 21-year-old from North Charleston, South Carolina immediately made an impact on the field. He broke the Bengals’ rookie sack record with 9.5 sacks in 2010.

Dunlap wreaked havoc in opposing teams’ backfields for the next decade, as he became one of the most underrated edge rushers in the NFL. He was great at getting after the quarterback and might've been even better at deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage. 

In 155 games played, Dunlap had 82.5 sacks (second all-time in Bengals’ history), 490 tackles, 227 quarterback hits, 103 tackles for loss, 60 passes defended, nine fumble recoveries, two interceptions, two touchdowns and two Pro Bowl selections. 

Dunlap has written himself into the Bengals’ history books, but his impact off the field over the past decade has been admirable.

He brought the South with him to the Midwest. He's always been proud of where he came from and his achievements along the way.

Dunlap's pride shows through his loyalty to the Charleston community. His restaurant, Honey Uninhibited, features southern cuisine cooking. It opened in 2019 in Miami, Florida.

He also went back to school in the midst of his NFL career to earn his undergraduate degree in family and community sciences from the University of Florida. He went on to earn an executive masters of business administration from the University of Miami (FL). 

Forgoing his graduation ceremony at the University of Florida in 2016, Dunlap chose to announce the Bengals’ third-round pick (Nick Vigil) of the NFL Draft in Chicago while wearing his Florida cap and gown.

Dunlap embraced the City of Cincinnati as his second home with open arms. The connection he's had with the people and community has been extraordinary.

He always wants to shout fans out and show his appreciation for them on his social media with the hashtag #ISpy96. 

Dunlap also loved making a difference in the community. His impact made in the Greater Cincinnati area over the past decade will leave its mark.

The Carlos Dunlap Foundation was started in 2014 to help inner city children. He helped provide scholastic aid, camps, birthday parties, trips to Paul Brown Stadium and so much more to children in the Cincinnati and Charleston areas. 

Dunlap and program director Tiffany Shepard always ran the events with such bliss. They made a difference in the lives of the kids involved.

The Breast Cancer Awareness game (now Crucial Catch) has always been a big week for the foundation. The foundation brought together a group of breast cancer survivors or women currently fighting the disease for an evening at a local spa and game day experience, which included pre-game sideline passes. 

Being able to witness the smiles and gratitude of these children and women benefitting from the Carlos Dunlap Foundation year-in and year-out during my time in the front office was remarkable.

Dunlap’s charitable acts never went unnoticed. He was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the NFL’s most prestigious award for charitable work, in 2015 and 2018. 

Dunlap also has great appreciation for the military, as both his mother and father served in the armed forces. Prior to the 2019 Salute to Service game, Carlos Dunlap Sr. reached out to the Bengals’ front office to see if he could be introduced with his son as part of the Salute to Service ceremonies. He wanted to surprise his son. 

Helping put together this moment for the Dunlap family is one of my greatest memories from my time in the front office as both Dunlap Sr. and Dunlap Jr. shared that special moment together.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) gets set to take the field alongside his father before of kickoff of a Week 10 NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Baltimore Ravens At Cincinnati Bengals Nov 10 Nfl Week 10

The end of the Dunlap era in Cincinnati might not have been the storybook ending many hoped it would be. 

Despite the shortcomings, Dunlap should be remembered for the good times both on and off the field after the initial wound heals. He's been a prominent figure in so many ways as a member of the Bengals over the past decade.

Best of luck and health in Seattle and thank you for all that you have done for Cincinnati, Employee 96. 

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