"I am up in Atlanta right now going through practices for the Offense/Defense game," Tyler Dunning said. "It's been a good experience and I am excited about playing in the game. After this, I have a couple of smaller All-Star games back home. It's still football season for me."
While this week's All-Star event is something Dunning has looked forward to, unlike many of his peers his high school football season just ended. Last week, St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) took on Bingham High (UT) in the State Champions Bowl Series. Dunning and the Raiders won the contest 33-25 thanks in large part to a 99 fumble return for a score from Dunning.
"Before the play, I just sort of visualized that happening," Dunning said of his field long scoop and score. "I just sort of saw that play happening before it did, so when it happened I was ready.
"I am not going to lie. I was tired after the play. It was a long run. I had to go get a drink of water and catch my breath when it was over."
The talented linebacker missed some time this fall due to an injury, so the Sportscenter quality highlight was a rewarding way to cap a state championship season on the national stage.
"I missed four games this year, so it was good to be back out there and making a play like that," Dunning said. "It has been sort of up and down, so to end it with a state championship and then to win that game was big."
Still in football shape, Dunning is looking forward to taking the field this weekend in Atlanta wearing the O/D All-American jersey. The Ft. Lauderdale product will take the field with another Mississippi State commitment, offensive tackle Cordavien Suggs. As fate would have it, the two are roommates this week.
"It just sort of turned out like that," Suggs said of his pairing with Dunning. "It's been a lot of fun though. We're both ballers and we have enjoyed getting to know each other better. We're sharing a room and we have talked a lot about Mississippi State."
Bulldog fans have been a little uneasy with the January visit schedule reported by Suggs. The talented offensive tackle is set to visit South Florida on January 13th, Mississippi State January 20th and Louisville on January 27th. Despite the decision to trip to other college campuses, Suggs reports that his college destination remains unchanged.
"I am just enjoying the process," Suggs said. "You only get to to do this one time in your life, so I decided to take those visits. I am still solid with Mississippi State though. I am still planning on signing with them."
Dunning is also set to visit Starkville the same weekend as his current roommate, the third weekend in January. While some other programs have shown interest, Dunning has not returned the favor. The scheduled trip to Mississippi State is the only official visit Dunning plans to take.
"I am not taking any other visits," Dunning said. "I am going to play in these All-Star games, take my visit to Mississippi State and then sign on signing day. I just knew that Mississippi State was the right place for me and I am a man of my word. That's the kind of person that I was raised to be and my coaches are like that too. I guess some of that comes from them. They're men of their words and I want people to see me like that."
Dunning and Suggs were joined by another Bulldog verbal, Kaleb Oliver, when the O/D/ All-American Bowl released their list of 88 Seniors. Oliver is recovering from surgery and will not take part in the game. Oliver attended, but did not play in the Tennessee All-Star game earlier this month. He is expected to be full go when fall practice begins in Starkville.
The Offense/Defense All-American Bowl will kick off at 5 PM today at Fifth Third Bank on the campus of Kennesaw State. The game can be seen on the WatchESPN app.