Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a standout linebacker in the NFL for 8 seasons. He grew up near Syracuse, NY, where he earned prep All-American honors as both a linebacker and running back. He went on to star at Boston College, before joining the New Orleans Saints as a rookie in 2008. He played in New Orleans until the end of 2011, joining the Rams as a free agent in 2012. Dunbar was becoming a major part of the Saints linebacking corps in 2009, when a torn hamstring sidelined him during the team's Super Bowl pursuit. He was a starter on Saints playoff teams in 2010 and '11 as well, leading all Saints linebackers in tackles and passes defensed in 2011.
Jo-Lonn was kind enough to answer some questions about his memories from his time in New Orleans and as a NFL football player. Here's what he had to say.
What were some of your memories from your very first NFL training camp in 2008?
Goodness, Training camp in '08 was by far the hardest training camp I have ever experienced. We were in Jackson, MS. It was literally the hottest month I have ever experienced. We had this long quarter mile walk to the practice fields each day. It felt like we were in pads every single day. There was this old astro turf we would practice on in the afternoon. It had to be over 100 degrees on this turf. You would have to pour water on your cleats to cool your feet down...I could remember one night laying in my training camp dorm room and hearing a train pass by in the middle of the night. I literally wanted to be on that train. I didn't care where it was going or where it would take me. I just wanted to go...Despite how miserable that TC was, it made me a better football player and certainly made us appreciate each other as a player and coach.
You went up against some of the best offensive players in the league on your own team in practice. Which player(s) presented the biggest challenge to you, and why?
Four players always presented a challenge for me and our defense. The first, obviously being Drew Brees, He's by far one of the best QBs to play this game. He knows exactly which play to put his offense in and where he should go with the ball. Honestly, one of the hardest working and talented men I have ever known. Second & third were Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks. These two guys are quiet and polite off the field but down right, hard nose, physical ball players on the field. That, combined with their unique athleticism for big guys, made them a complete terror as a linebacker. It tested your will to be physical with them all day, everyday. Lastly, Jeremy Shockey. Shockey had a unique combination of speed, agility and ability. He made covering him in man-to-man situations difficult.
You were a major contributor on 2 of the greatest teams in Saints history (2009 and 2011). What are a few of your memories from your time in New Orleans?
My memories with the Saints all come down to the players and coaches. The friendships with these guys made those seasons the best. I've played football since I was a child. I have never been on a team where guys genuinely enjoyed being around each other like those times in New Orleans. We all hung out together all year round. We got to know each other and became more like family than teams. Heck, many of us are still friends now and speak regularly.
You joined the Rams as a free agent in 2012, and enjoyed a few standout seasons there. You faced your old team during the '13 season, a 27-13 Rams victory. Describe some of your feelings as you entered that game — any extra motivation?
That game was fun for me. I had the opportunity to play against some of my friends and a chance to see them again. Honestly, I just wanted to win the game and certainly play well. I didn't have any extra motivation. The split between the Saints and I was mutual. I have a lot of respect for the organization and certainly Sean.
Other than Brees and Payton of course, do you see any similarities between this Saints team and the ones you played with?
I certainly see some similarities. I know the Saints will get back to winning games and packing the Superdome. Which we all know is the LOUDEST stadium in football. I think Dennis Allen is a good DC and I know he runs a lot of stuff we were winning with in '09. So, I am excited to see the Saints get back on top of the NFC South.
You still follow the Saints pretty closely. Do you have any predictions on how the team will do this season?
I certainly still follow them. I still have a few friends who are still in Black and Gold. I certainly see a return to the top of the NFC South. The division is strong but the Saints will get back to balance offense and a takeaway defense. That alone will give them a chance.
You're a founder/CEO of prime58.com. Tell us a little about that, and your life after football.
We are in the final stages of MVP, building a web based application that allows users to virtually train with and experience the fitness lifestyles of their favorite athlete, celebrity and personal trainer. With Prime, we make true fitness more accessible, enjoyable, achievable and affordable. The vision of Prime, is to use professional athletes to provide fun and engaging fitness routines, show their fitness lifestyles and nutritional habits. We bring a fitness app experience unlike anything currently in the app fitness market. We combine visibly easy and fun social features (sharing and connection), fitness tracking (wearables) and fitness role models (athletes, fitness influencers). The remarkable influence and motivation athletes have around the world, combined with proven result driven fitness routines, wearable tracking technology and fun social features.
Thank you again, Jo-Lonn, for taking some of your time to answer some questions. It was always a pleasure watching you play for the New Orleans Saints, and a privilege to get to chat with you.