St. Joseph, Mo. – Jason Dunn is back in Chiefs training camp, but the 38-year old isn’t in St. Joe to play. He’s here to learn coaching techniques from Romeo Crennel.
Both products of Kentucky higher education, Crennel and Dunn set aside intrastate rivalry when they met over the summer.
Crennel, a Western Kentucky Hilltopper, started four years on the defensive line at WKU. It was also the place his coaching career began, spending 1970-74 instructing the Hilltoppers defensive linemen.
Dunn made his mark on the eastern side of the state playing tight end for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. He was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996, but is better known for his final eight seasons in Kansas City complimenting Tony Gonzalez as a massive block-first tight end.
“Jason went to Eastern Kentucky…too bad for him,” Crennel joked. “I played and coached at Western, so I knew of Jason because of Eastern. Because of the Kentucky connection we were able to talk and have a conversation.
“Now his playing career is over and I was talking to him about what he was doing and what his aspirations were.”
Those aspirations involve coaching. Dunn is almost five years removed from his last NFL snap, but he’s no stranger to the football field.
“Coaching really caught me,” Dunn said. “I’ve been back home coaching in Kentucky and I’ve been enjoying it, so I decided to come up here and see how these coaches do things. I’ll tell you what, this is work but I like it. I love watching players develop.”
Dunn is entering in his third season as an assistant coach at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky. His NFL resume – and the fact that his 6’6” frame still looks the part of an NFL tight end – give him instant credibility with the teenagers he’s instructing.
But a history playing the game doesn’t automatically translate into successful coaching habits. Dunn is still developing those skills, so he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick Crennel’s brain when they crossed paths during the summer.
“I saw Romeo at the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is something he’s a member of (Class of 2007), and I just talked to him a bit about coming out here to see how they do things,” explained Dunn. “He was just like, ‘give me a call sometime Jason, I’d love to have you,’ and I think that’s a testament to him. He understood that I wanted to develop my knowledge as a coach.”
“He said he enjoyed the game of football and was coaching football and that’s what he wanted to do,” Crennel recalled. “He wanted to learn as much as he could and asked if I would be open to him coming and watching practice for a couple days in training camp. So I told him to go ahead and come on. So he called me and I said ‘come and you can watch a couple days and see what you can learn.’”
There are only a few players remaining on the Chiefs roster that Dunn knows personally. The 2007 season was Dunn’s final year in Kansas City. Former teammates
But many things are still the same. One of them is Dunn’s physical presence. He’s unmistakable at training camp, towering over many of the full-padded players as he takes notes in street clothes from the sidelines.
Dunn definitely still looks the part.
“I’ll tell you what, being out of the game my body is finally starting to feel right,” said Dunn. “Sometimes you get out here and you feel the energy in the air and you smell the grass and you start to miss it a little bit. But I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now.”