By Tim Chambers
His obituary simply read: he was a star three-sport athlete at Johnson County High School. Many remember Jeremy Dunn as the best three-sport Longhorn ever.
The 1998 graduate left Johnson County for paradise on May 20, 2017. His unexpected death brought sadness to all its residents.
Jeremy touched the hearts of everyone he came in contact with and kids wanted to be like him.
Dunn was All-Conference in all three sports during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He was also named Northeast Tennessee Player of the Year in basketball during his senior campaign.
His coach and now Little Milligan principal J. R. Campbell remembered him well.
“He was a man among men,” said Campbell. “Yet he was just a kid on the other hand. I loved him because he played with so much confidence. He and I had a good relationship.”
Campbell pointed out the value of young men such as Jeremy.
“You never know what you had until it’s gone,” said Campbell. “He was one of those. Jeremy was a legend all the way through Little League into high school. Kids admired him. He was who everyone was looking for when they walked inside the gym. I’m a better person today because of Jeremy. He did a whole lot more for me than I did for him.”
Baseball head coach Pete Pavusek echoed the same type of sentiments as Campbell.
“Jeremy was special at anything he did,” added Pavusek. “He played anywhere that I needed him. He was a stud pitcher, a great outfielder and star infielder. It didn’t matter where you played him. He was the best player on the field.”
Pavusek said Dunn’s talents were far beyond the playing field.
“He never talked trash or disrespected anyone. He was very respectful toward his coaches, teachers, school administrators and all adults. He was a role model to coach. He always took out his frustrations on the other team.”
Pavusek told a story about one of Dunn’s pitching performances.
“We had to play Sullivan North at Daniel Boone because both our fields were wet. We got there late and the umpires wouldn’t let us warm up. I told Jeremy that he would have to get loose during the game. He assured me not to worry about it. That was all it took for me.”
Dunn fired a one-hitter that day and struck out 12 batters.
“We were back on the bus in just over an hour,” said Pavusek. “He pitched a one-hitter and we won 10-0. The North players were blown away. They wouldn’t shake our hands after it was over so we just went and got on the bus. It was an enjoyable ride home.”
Former football head coach and now Cannon County assistant Mike Atwood recalled the toughness that Dunn possessed.
“He played quarterback and linebacker for us which are not a good mix,” said Atwood. “Opposing coaches couldn’t believe he was doing it. He was competitive and he was tough. He would do anything you asked. If you had 11 players like him you would have had the best player at every position. He was definitely a special player.”
Dunn was a senior during Atwood first tenure as head coach.
“I had a lot to learn and don’t know what I would have done without him. He was well liked in the locker room and respected. He was never too high or too low.”
Atwood told a story about a scrimmage game that Dunn played in.
“He threw an interception in Newland, North Carolina to a linebacker who had signed with an ACC school. It’s usually a dead ball in a scrimmage game but the guy took off running down field after he intercepted it. Jeremy took off and caught him about 30 yards down the field. He not only knocked him out of bounds but he knocked him out completely. He always played hard in scrimmages and real games.”
Age didn’t slow Dunn down. He could be found playing flag football or competitive basketball up until his death.
Current head basketball coach and athletic director Austin Atwood loved what he stood for. He had a few of his current Longhorns go to Abingdon to play in a league with Dunn.
“They loved it because they saw his competitiveness and how well he could play for his age. You don’t want kids to play in a men’s league, but I didn’t worry when they were with Jeremy. I didn’t have to worry if a fight broke out. I knew he had their backs. I wanted them to be around him. I wanted them to observe his toughness and competitiveness.”
Dunn was the son of Benny and Donna Dunn. He also had a brother Jason.
Perhaps Campbell summed it up best.
“I’m glad that people like Jeremy came along in my lifetime. You’re amazed when you see them perform and you marvel when they are no longer here.”
Longhorn fans will never forget Jeremy’s contribution on the gridiron, hardwood or diamond. He was also a member of Dewey Christian Church.
Jeremy’s talents now lie in paradise, and he’s part of our Lord’s team. His final stop will be Heaven.
You can bank on that.
It’s a “Dunn” deal.