Malik Dunner’s selfless attitude quickly ingratiated him with his new football teammates.
After Dundee-Crown’s players saw what Dunner could do on the field, they liked him even more.
The junior transfer from Elgin has performed well at safety and shown a flair for making big plays with limited offensive touches for the Chargers. D-C (5-2 overall, 2-2 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division) can clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 1994 when it hosts McHenry (2-5, 0-4) at 7:15 p.m. Friday at the D-C Bowl.
“It’s more like them picking me up,” Dunner said. “Everybody makes plays for each other. We’re all a team. We do it together, it’s not one person. I wouldn’t be able to do it if nobody blocked, you know? It’s not me, it’s the team.”
A team that is thrilled to have the speedy Dunner on its side. Dunner (5-foot-10, 186 pounds) has two interceptions on defense and has scored four touchdowns between offense and special teams. Dunner came up with pivotal plays in close wins against Crystal Lake South (14-13) and Huntley (17-14).
“He’s one of our better defensive players,” Chargers coach Vito Andriola said. “He’s made a ton of great tackles for us. Obviously, he’s a good football player, but he’s a good person. We’ve talked about changing the culture of the school and the program, and the more good people you bring in who can play, the better the program is.”
D-C players and coaches started hearing last spring that Dunner might be transferring.
“I heard during track season that he was coming and he was a fast kid,” safety Sam Franckowiak said. “He’s contributed a lot to our team. When our offense is struggling, he goes out and helps. On special teams he helps out a lot. He’s a really explosive player.”
Dunner has 10 carries for 131 yards, but three of those carries are for touchdowns of 23, 41 and 37 yards. He scored the game-deciding touchdowns against both South and Huntley.
Then, against Grayslake Central, Dunner had a 50-yard punt return and a 37-yard rush for touchdowns, giving D-C a 21-0 lead on the way to a 30-14 victory.
“He’s really athletic. I’ve seen him run before he came here,” D-C defensive back Fabian Gutierrez said. “He helps us a lot. He gives us that extra boost that we need.”
Dunner was excited to join D-C, an improving program, from Elgin, where the Maroons are struggling for numbers and victories. Elgin is 1-15 over the last two seasons and lost to D-C, 52-12, in the opener.
“Everybody plays pretty well at this school and it’s more about the team here,” Dunner said. “I heard good things about Coach A. He’s a good coach and it’s great to play for him.”
Andriola feels with Dunner’s ability and after spending more time in D-C’s lifting program, that he can become a strong college prospect.
“He wants to learn and he’s fast,” Andriola said. “He’s getting coached hard. He’s a good student. When college coaches ask, ‘Can you coach him hard?’ Well, you can.”