Michael Dunn thought long and hard about whether the past nine days were the best of his life. He smiled wide and laughed hard, his youthful complexion glowing through the bushy preseason beard. No, Dunn finally concluded. It could not be topped. “Yeah, I can’t even remember the last time anything close to this even happened,” he said. “It’s just been crazy.”

On Aug. 19, the redshirt freshman walked into Coach Randy Edsall’s office alongside some fellow offensive linemen, all battling for a precious few starting spots this preseason. The opener was less than two weeks away, and Edsall wanted to shake things up. Dunn had barely ducked under the doorway when Edsall dropped the bomb. He would start at right guard.

Oh, and Edsall was putting him on scholarship, too. What a meeting.

“I didn’t know exactly how they felt about me at guard yet, since I only really had one scrimmage where I played,” Dunn said. “I was very surprised at first when they said I would be starting at guard. And with the scholarship, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I didn’t know how many scholarship they had to offer. I know they like giving them to older guys at first. None of the coaches even said anything before. It was all-in-one, kind of just happened.”

After the meeting, Dunn called his family, back home in nearby Bethesda. His parents were so excited, they kept interrupting each other to offer their congratulations. Ever since, Dunn’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, mostly family wishing him well.

“I was impressed with Michael last year with his athletic ability and his ability to bend,” Edsall said. “He tried to work as hard as he could last year, got bigger stronger, he’s a smart young man. In the spring he showed is more things. Over the summer he worked hard, added strength, added weight. He’s gone out and won a job based on his performance, based on his production.”

A former tackle at Whitman High School, Dunn entered the preseason as a walk-on, tied for the backup right tackle job behind Nick Klemm. But inconsistencies necessitated a five-man monte along the front lines. So Ryan Doyle overtook Klemm and Dunn moved inside to guard. The offseason weight gains and heightened understanding of the system paid off.

“Moving Michael Dunn inside definitely increases our athleticism,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “To have a guy who has a tackle skill-set, play guard, allows us to do some things just from a movement standpoint. We feel like, again, his move to guard was predicated on trying to find the best five and putting them on the field.”

At the same time, Dunn must curb the excitement, or at least translate it onto the field. His college debut, after serving on the scout team last season, comes Saturday against Florida International. His parents will be there, with no limit to how much they can scream.

Oh, and as he casually dropped five minutes into a conversation, Wednesday is Dunn’s 19th birthday. With all the tuition money saved after being put on scholarship, he might summon the courage to ask his family for a car.


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