Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Dunn's Goal Is a Well-Conditioned Team


Familiar faces abound at Redskins Park these days, from Joe Gibbs to Joe Bugel to Earnest Byner.

Another familiar face--perhaps lesser known to Redskins fans--is new head strength and conditioning coach John Dunn.

Dunn began his NFL career with Gibbs and the Redskins in 1984-86 and worked under Dan Riley, who headed the team's strength and conditioning department for 19 years.

Dunn would go on to become a strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Raiders (1987-89), San Diego Chargers (1990-96) and New York Giants (1997-2003).

For Dunn, returning to Washington is kind of like returning to his NFL roots.

"Coming back here is unique-the facility is different and the area is different, but many of the coaches are the same," he said. "So it does feel like coming back home."

In his first month back in Washington, Dunn has been busy implementing a training program that combines conventional exercises with higher-intensity exercises that ultimately put less stress on the joints.

"We're going to use more of a high intensity approach: taking an athlete and putting him in an anatomically correct position, isolating the muscle group--and then working the muscle group to exhaustion," he said.

"The advantage is that it's time-efficient--you can train the entire body for 45-50 minutes, which fits into a football environment because during the season you're limited in the amount of time you can train a player. So our program is going to be the same whether it's in-season or out-of-season."

This kind of training should pay off late in the season when conditioning is important as teams make their playoff run.

As head strength and conditioning coach, Dunn's teams have garnered a pair of Super Bowl berths: the San Diego Chargers in 1994 and New York Giants in 2000.

The season that the Chargers made it to the Super Bowl, Dunn's peers voted him the NFL's Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year.

"The key [to late-season conditioning] is finding exercises they can do even though they're starting to get beat up," Dunn said. "That fits in with the type of equipment we use and the approach that we take. But it's important they continue to train right through the season.

"In fact, the most important time for players to train is during the season. It makes no sense to get a player really strong when you go to camp in July. If he reduces his weightlifting, then come November and December, he'll only be a shell of what he used to be."

Dunn was a defensive lineman and offensive lineman at Penn State from 1975-78. He graduated with a degree in health and physical education.

He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978 as an undrafted free agent before getting his start in coaching at Penn State as an assistant offensive line coach.

During his playing days at Penn State, Dunn acquired a nickname that sticks to this day.

As the story goes: Inside the Penn State locker room there's a portrait of the first-ever All-American football player at Penn State, William Thomas Dunn (1881-1962). William Thomas Dunn was nicknamed "Mother" when he was freshman class president at Penn State.

One day as he was leading his class across campus, somebody shouted, "There goes Mother Dunn and his chickens." The nickname stuck.

Although they are not related, when John Dunn arrived at Penn State as a freshman in 1975, his teammates stuck the same nickname to him. Dunn would later use the name recognition as part of a health club he opened in York, Pa.: Mother Dunn's Nautilus Club.

"Then when I came to the Redskins [in 1984], there were quite a few Penn Staters on the roster and they only knew me as 'Mother,'" Dunn laughed. "So from my whole young adult life on, I've been known as 'Mother Dunn.'"

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.