A bad car wreck before his senior year of high school derailed what could have been a promising football or baseball career for David Dunlap.
So Dunlap decided to pick up tennis.
It’s a decision which worked out well as Dunlap was announced last week as one of 12 inductees into the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021. The induction ceremony is Friday, Aug. 27.
Dunlap started playing tennis his freshman year of college and would play recreationally with his wife Linda shortly after they were married. “We would dink the ball around and have fun with it,” said David.
It was while he was working as a recreation coordinator for Plateau Mental Health Center in Cookeville that he entered his first tennis tournament.
“My wife signed me up,” said David. “I was 30 years old and playing in my first tennis tournament. She entered me in the C Division and I came in second. After that, I entered the A Division in my next tournament and got beat pretty bad so I dropped down and played B Division for a couple tournaments. After that I went back up to A and played A Division for most of my life until these last couple years.”
Now 77, Dunlap is still an active tennis player, but he’s slowed just a step so he usually plays in B Division. He also enjoys playing doubles more nowadays because it’s less physically demanding. He offers a great tip on being successful in doubles.
“It helps to have a really good partner,” said Dunlap.
A bad car crash nearly claimed his life in August of 1960 just before his senior year of high school was set to begin.
“We were living in Walling, which is in White County, but I had been practicing with the Central football team here in McMinnville for about two weeks,” said Dunlap. “The White County football coach was Dee Harris and I don’t know if it was legal or not but he got me to come play for White County. I practiced and scrimmaged with White County but I never got to get into a game because of the wreck.”
Dunlap continued, “It was a head-on crash and I was unconscious for nine days. Everything I had was broken. Fortunately everyone in the other car survived. I don’t know how I stayed alive. Sometimes your life can change in a heartbeat and mine sure did. I had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates that I couldn’t fulfill. Maybe today with the way physical therapy is I could have played again, but not back then.”
Dunlap spent 28 years teaching in the Warren County School System and served as the high school tennis coach for most of those years. He retired from the school system as a teacher in 2006 and still continued to coach the tennis team until 2013.
After that, he spent one year as tennis coach at Covenant Academy before returning to guide the WCHS tennis teams this past season. He plans to coach for WCHS again next year and has already been active in trying to recruit students to play.
Dunlap says making a positive impact has always been his goal.
“It great when I’m out and see one of the kids I’ve coached, especially if they’ve turned out to be successful. It’s nice to think maybe I played a part in that,” said Dunlap. “Occasionally, I’ll see a former player when I’m out and it will just break my heart. They say there’s a fork in the road and we don’t always choose the right way.”
The past year has been one of accolades for Dunlap. In June 2020, he had the tennis courts named in his honor at Milner Recreation Center. The four outdoor courts are named David Dunlap Tennis Complex.
Now he has the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame to add to his list of achievements.
“I was in total shock when I heard about it,” said Dunlap. “It’s quite an honor.”
In addition to tennis, Dunlap golfs as much as he can. On Monday he shot 39 in nine holes at WillowBrook.