Arrested for DUI the Monday before the 2009 SEC Championship, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap became a pariah in the eyes of Florida Gators fans. How could he be so stupid? How could he be so selfish? How could he do this to himself, his teammates and die-hard Gators fans? If Dunlap’s father had it his way, his son would return to the University of Florida to play football, earn his degree and – more importantly – redeem himself and his family.
“It’s a possibility,” Carlos Dunlap, Sr. told The Post and Courier. “It’s a 50-50 chance that he will come back. If it was my decision right now, I would say come back. Because we are a very prideful family. We have a tarnished name, somewhat in the eyes of so-called fans. But I really feel there is a distinct possibility he will come back because he feels like he owes his university something. There are ways you can always redeem yourself. This is not Carlos’ senior year. Carlos has another year to go in school. If he decides to come back to school, he can redeem himself and show the kind of character he has.”
Dunlap’s previously clean record and strong family values have already led head coach Urban Meyer, athletic director Jeremy Foley and university president Bernie Machen to believe in him and allow him to return to the team for the 2010 Sugar Bowl (should he meet certain criteria). But will Dunlap actually return to Gainesville, FL, if he can be a top 10 pick in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft?
Originally considered a top five pick and potentially even No. 1 overall, Dunlap’s draft projection fell after his DUI arrest brought questions about his trustworthiness. However, the situation is now out of the national spotlight, and Dunlap gets a chance to play on New Year’s Day in a BCS bowl game. Couple that exposure with a strong combine and positive recommendations from his coaches, and he could very well vault back into that top tier without having to spend another year in college. Therefore, the question is no longer if Dunlap is stupid or selfish or if his absence was just another unnecessary distraction that held the Gators back from performing at their best in Atlanta, GA.
The remaining question is simple: Is it about pride or money?