Sports, especially football, has been a part of the Dunbar family for more than 65 years
Sports, especially football, has been a part of the Dunbar family for more than 65 years. A game in Alamosa two weeks ago was the final football game for the family, for now. The Dunbar football heritage spans three generations while they wait for the fourth generation to put on the pads.
Kurtis Dunbar, a Meeker High School graduate and currently a senior at Western State College in Gunnison, played his final collegiate football game in Alamosa.
“I’ve been playing organized football since I was in seventh-grade,” Dunbar said after his 11th season. “Before it was offered as an organized school sport, my classmates and I would play unorganized pick-up games at recess during school, so I’ve been playing football as long as I can remember.
Dunbar follows in the footsteps of his older brother Kevin, his father Dale and his grandfather Keith, all of whom played in Meeker and at least one season at the college level.
“Being a college football player had always been a dream of mine,” said the youngest Dunbar. He led the Western State Mountaineers this year in receiving yards, yards per game and tied for the team lead in receptions. “I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, father and brother and play intercollegiate football.”
Kurtis learned from some of the best, including his grandfather Keith, who played for Rio Blanco County High School in Meeker from 1945-1948, under coach Paul Starbuck.
“In high school we played the single wing offense and I was the tailback and also played at end, the eldest Dunbar said. As a senior, Keith earned all-conference honors and was named the league’s MVP, scoring a record 113 points in eight games. “No one kept stats in those years and it may still be the record,” Dunbar said. “In high school, if we won, the Meeker Cafe and Cuppy and Ann Sanderson served us all a free hamburger. Also, Glen Wittstruck, who owned the Rio Theater, treated us to a free movie. All games were Friday afternoon, until the 1948 Hayden game, which was Meeker’s first game under any lights. Most of the Meeker businesses would close during the Friday afternoon games before the field got lights.”
Keith was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University in Fort Collins) in 1949, then “went into the U.S. Air Force and in 1951 and ‘52, played for the Sherman, Texas, USAF team.” In 1952, Dunbar was selected as the MVP for the All-Southwest Service Conference and received a “special letter” from George Halas, owner/coach of the Chicago Bears. The letter contained a bus ticket and an invitation for a walk-on tryout with the Bears. Due to medical reasons, Dunbar was unable to tryout.
Keith’s high school coach was quoted as saying, “Dunbar was the best high school running back I ever saw.”
Starbuck also coached Dale Dunbar, then retired in 1976 after Dunbar’s sophomore year in high school. Dale started playing under coaches Herb Oba and Sam Barone in junior high and was coached by Colorado Hall of Fame coach Bill Noxon at Western State College.
“My first year at Western (1980), we were ranked No. 2 in the nation for about three or four weeks,” Dale said. “Adams State upset us at home and after that we never regained the national spotlight.”
But the spotlight is not the reason the Dunbars love the game of football. They love the memories the game created for the family.
“Something I will always take with me from my football career is playing in front of 30,000 people at the University of Montana,” Kurtis said. “The atmosphere and energy that accompanied that game are unparalleled with any other game or venue I have played at. Other than that, I will always remember my teammates and coaches for the life lessons I have learned from them. Also my family traveling all over the country to watch me play will always be a fond memory of mine.”
“Most of my football memories are of watching the boys play and the trips we made to see them,” Dale said. He and his wife, Jill, have seen all but two of the games their sons played in, missing one of each when the boys were in junior high.
“One year we left after Kurtis’ homecoming game in his high school freshman year and drove all night to get to Billings (Montana) to watch Kevin play his homecoming game at Rocky Mountain College,” Dale said. “We haven’t missed seeing Kurtis play a down in college, including spring and fall scrimmage games. We’ve been to every one of his WSC games in the past three years, from Montana to New Mexico, from Kansas to Idaho and all of the home games before and after he started traveling with the team.”
Family pride is what motivates Kevin Dunbar, now a teacher and coach in Cedaredge.
“The motivation for me to compete was always to make my family proud, something I continually strive for, no matter what I do,” Kevin said.
Kevin was graduated from Meeker High School in 2002 and played one season in Montana at the college level before transferring to the University of Wyoming, where he was an undergraduate manager for the men’s basketball team for two full years, helping coaches organize/set up practice and games, first as a volunteer before earning a scholarship and traveling with the team.
“It was the best job I ever had,” Kevin said. “I learned a ton about coaching and the work that goes on behind the scenes in Division I hoops. The best part was working with the coaches and the atmosphere on game day.”
Kevin said he and his brother were “always brought up around sports” and now wants to pass on what he has learned to his basketball players.
“Dad would take us to all the Meeker home football games and basketball games,” Kevin said. “We also spent a lot of time just playing catch (football and baseball), shooting baskets. We would go to the track at the end of every summer to “get in shape” for the football season, lift weights, etc. He and my mom really invested time in my brother and I and I think that’s why I never wanted to let my family down. They never missed a game and neither did my grandparents.”
Kevin said the best advice he received from his dad was, “Nobody ever died from working hard, you’ll pass out before you die. I don’t know if that’s what he told my brother too but I always tried to work hard and do my best for my team, my coaches and my family.”
Kevin is starting his second year as the head boys’ basketball team coach for the Cedaredge Bruins.
“The motivation for me to continue being a part of athletics as a coach is the excitement of the game and knowing that being part of a team is being part of something greater than myself,” Dunbar said. “Sharing the knowledge I have picked up and seeing a young athlete learn and apply that knowledge is very rewarding. I always felt like the coaches I have been around in high school and in college had a big impact in my life and I always respected their efforts and knowledge.
The Dunbars have all earned several awards and scholarships for their play. Now they will wait to teach the fourth generation of Dunbars as Kevin’s eight-week-old son Jackson Garrett starts “getting in shape.”
Dunbar family accomplishments
What honors did you receive playing football in high school?
Western Slope All-Conference 2 years (2005 and 2006)
Western Slope League MVP (2006)
Western Slope League Coach’s All-State Selection (2006)
Rocky Mountain News All-State Second Team (2006)
Denver Post All-State Honorable Mention (2006)
IBM/Denver Broncos Hero of the Week (2006)
High School Heisman Candidate (2006)
Colorado All-State football game –Starting Linebacker (2007)
Colorado All-state team Australia Downunder Bowl
3 playoff appearances
Earned Western Slope League All-Conference as a HS junior 2001 and senior 2002.
Colorado All-State team Australia Downunder Bowl
Athletic scholarship to play one semester at Rocky Mountain College in Billings MT as inside linebacker in 2003.
Earned Western Slope League All Conference quarterback as a HS senior (’77).
Rocky Mountain News All-State Honorable Mention (’77).
Outstanding Back (’77).
Athletic scholarship to play both years at Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, as a tight end/quarterback. Two year varsity letterman.
All-Conference and the league MVP award 1948.
Awarded a full athletic scholarship to Colorado A&M (Colorado State) in 1949.
Selected as the MVP for the All-Southwest Service Conference 1952
Invitation to try out for the Chicago Bears.