About a week ago, my longtime friend, Kevin Dunn of TEST Football Academy, sent me a link. It led to a 30-minute video posted on YouTube, and I was blown away after watching the first five minutes, but quickly got distracted and didn’t get to finish it.
Kevin persisted, however, and asked this week if I’d ever finished it. I felt guilty about it, and immediately went home and watched it in its entirety. I’m really glad I did. Kevin and I have known each other for the better part of 20 years, but I didn’t really know him until I watched his story, which is called TESTED.
It tells the story of Kevin’s challenges raising two children with significant medical needs, as well as as his brother, who was part of the TEST team before his tragic death a few years ago. It’s a movie about family and, of course, football, but also something that should appeal to anyone who aspires to do something great in this arena and the serious obstacles you might face.
I encourage you to watch the video. In the meantime, I asked Kevin a few questions about the film and the story it tells. My questions and his answers are below.
Had you known what your next 20 years would look like, would you have started TEST?
“When you take on a project as large as this, you commit your life to something that will hopefully be thriving long after you leave this earth. The legacy we are creating here is a special one. The 20-year journey was well worth the ride knowing the players and families we helped along the way and the long-term generational impact obtaining a career in the NFL would have on them.”
How did your experience with your children’s medical situations help you deal with the problems your brother faced? Or did those experiences help at all?
“It’s hard to believe in miracles until that’s the only option you have. I found myself on a rollercoaster of emotions going through all of the medical emergencies with my kids which ultimately led to the point of actually mourning the loss of my son who was non-verbal, autistic and had severe hydrocephalus. The dreams you have of how life was supposed to be all of the sudden disappeared. Hearing ‘Dada’ or ‘I love you,’ making friends, girlfriends, sports, proms, college, marriage and grandkids, all became things that Kurtis would never get to experience. That was a hard pill to swallow. There were definitely several years where I became angry and resentful, but my children solidified the necessity of faith in my life and have ultimately given me the best, most compassionate perspective to want to help kids that can’t help themselves.
“Because I walked through that battlefield early on, it literally felt like I was in a war and by nature, became numb to bad news. It kept me calm and patient during a very difficult year for our family as we tried to help my brother. I’m proud of the man he was becoming and how amazing he was with my kids. The camping trips, the Santa suits, and all of the time he spent with them was truly a blessing. We choose to remember the positives he brought to our world and are reminded that there are no guarantees in life.”
Dealing with aspiring NFL players can be grueling for a lot of reasons. How did your daily challenges raising your kids help you in your work with young athletes?
“Winners make things happen, losers let things happen. The only way you can make a good decision is to know all the variables. I was making life-and-death decisions for my kids since I was 27 years old. I didn’t have time to wait for paper-pushers at insurance companies to determine whether or not it was appropriate for Kurt to get his surgery in NYC with the best heart surgeon for the job. After being denied three times, I finally won that battle, and it is one of the reasons Kurtis is with us today.
“I approach my business decisions with the same level of intensity. Getting into the NFL is truly a life-or-death situation for some kids. I will fight until my very last breath to help athletes save themselves.”
Viewers are treated to you singing at the end of Tested. Do you ever sing for your guys around the facility? Maybe throw in a little rap?
“I did have one moment in time at the (NFL Combine) when the room we had came with a mic and I broke out a beat-box session. It’s some serious comic relief. But in all seriousness, in the film, I sang that song at my dad’s funeral. We all have special gifts to give that are more valuable than money, and that was one that money couldn’t buy.
“I hope this film is a blessing to people that are going through storms in their lives. I hope it encourages them to keep fighting and being teachable in moments of struggle. The storm will eventually subside along with the emotions that surrounds it. This journey has opened my eyes to so many incredible things that most of us take for granted. I will live forever by my dad’s quote on the wall, ‘if you start the game, finish it at 100 percent.'”