Rob Lunn needed something to distract him.
When he was a freshman on the UConn football team, Lunn redshirted and watched from the sidelines, something he was not accustomed to. So he started keeping a journal.
“It wasn’t a journal like ‘Dear Diary, today I met Randy Edsall and he was mean to me,’” Lunn joked.
Instead, it was a comprehensive recollection of things that came up in practice, games or in the locker room. Sometimes he analyzed the X’s and O’s. Other times he recalled quirky stories about teammates. He enjoyed writing, but said the journal was mostly a means of keeping himself during his redshirt year.
Little did he know, it would turn out to be much, much more.
Not your stereotypical football player
On the surface, Lunn is everything the term "football player" embodies. He's big, he's strong, and according Lorelle Schaub, his former roommate, he's "a slob."
Schaub, a senior on the UConn women's volleyball team, is a good friend of Lunn who got closed out of housing and was scrambling to find a place to live at the last minute. It came as no surprise that Lunn offered an empty room in his off-campus apartment to her. Since then, Schaub describes Lunn as "one of my best friends."
"He's really the nicest guys, one of the most caring people I've ever met," Schaub said.
As Schaub and Lunn began to spend more time together, she quickly realized that Lunn was a very unique individual.
"Even as athletes, we still have stereotypes," Schaub said. "You know, football players are dumb, basketball players skip class."
Lunn didn't quite fit the mold.
At the end of the day, most players went back to the dorms and play video games.
"Not to say I'm above the whole video game," Lunn said. "But I haven't owned a video game system since Sega Genesis."
Instead, Lunn went back to his apartment—which he refers to as a "library"—and read. Politics, history, sports novels (he lists Joe Namath's biography as one of his favorite reads), you name it. Lunn has probably read it. He even read "Marley and Me," a book that was eventually turned into a children's movie starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.
"I go through a couple of books every week or so," Lunn said.
Aside from reading, Lunn has a sharp interest in politics. After all, he was a political science major.
On Dec. 4, 2008, Lunn showed up to UConn football's weekly media day wearing a "Jena-6" T-Shirt that he borrowed from teammate Cody Brown. He was protesting the second-degree attempted murder charges that six black teenagers in Jena, La. were initially dealt after assaulting a white student, an act that whites in the area had frequently done to blacks without receiving such a charge.
"A lot of that [political awareness] comes from his family," Schaub said.
In fact, much of it stems from Lunn’s close relationship with his father, Robert, a former Justice on the New York Supreme Court.
"You should have seen some of the dinner table conversations," Lunn said. "Having him as a father got me more into politics than say, reading a textbook about it would, because I knew that was his real life."
Lunn's home in Penfield, N.Y. was equipped with an advanced security system and always had a state trooper outside playing watchman. Lunn's father even received death threats for some of the rulings he made in court.
"He had some pretty high profile cases," Lunn said. "Looking back, it was pretty interesting—especially considering he could never get a speeding ticket."
On the Field
At Penfield Central high school (Penfield, N.Y.), Lunn was a "big fish in a small pond."
He was the most dominant football player that Penfield Central high school had seen in years. He was one of the few Division-I prospects to ever roam hallways of Penfield Central. He was the biggest kid on the team. He was the strongest. He was one of the most athletic.
But when he accepted a scholarship offer to UConn, Lunn was no longer big man on campus. He was just another player.
"It was a tough adjustment," Lunn said. "I wasn't even on the top ten on the strength board...in my class, let alone the entire team."
The years rolled by and Lunn sat on the sidelines. He redshirted in his first season, which he described as a "culture shock," and netted just two tackles the following year. As a sophomore, he registered three. All the while, he maintained his journal, keeping a personal record of everything that went on.
But after totaling just five tackles in his first two seasons, Lunn seriously considered transferring. He had the University of New Hampshire coach dialed up and ready to go. He carefully weighed his options and ultimately decided to keep working and stick it out at UConn. He calls it the best decision he’s ever made.
He spent the following summer working out harder than ever and getting into good enough shape to challenge for a starting spot. He ended up doing that and more.
Lunn's junior season, when the Huskies went 9-3 and earned a bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, proved to be his breakthrough year. Lunn racked up 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks and drew some interest from NFL personnel.
“Rob became an impact player for us and he also became one of the leaders of our defense,” said defensive coordinator Hank Hughes. “He’s a guy that worked very hard, led by example and did all the little things for us.”
"I wasn't like 'Yeah, first round all the way,'" Lunn said. "But I thought I'd have a chance to make a camp and maybe make a roster."
Things didn’t work out in 2008, however. After battling through injuries, Lunn was replaced in the starting line-up by redshirt freshmen Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes. He was quickly relegated to a being a situational player and ended his senior year with just 13 tackles.
Lunn graduated in December and soon after, signed a one-year contract to play professionally in Austria. Even he admits that the NFL is no longer an option.
In his final semester at UConn, Lunn was assigned to start a blog for a Race and Politics class. He didn't think much of it at first, maybe make a few posts here and there, get the grade and get out of college. But he couldn't help but post some of his journal entries. After a few posts, he received good feedback from his teacher. From there on out, his blog—wwww.lunn65.blogspot.com—
Through the first month or so of his blog, which he titled "Thoughts from a Fat, White Guy," Lunn often joked about his mother and father being the only ones who ever read it. Then, New Haven Register UConn football beat writer Chip Malafronte caught wind of Lunn's blog. He quickly linked it to his own blog, "Chips Runway Ramblings," which is coincidentally the only UConn football blog Lunn reads.
"Chip Malafronte knows what he's talking about," Lunn said. "He has a good grasp on the game and he presents it in a creative and funny way."
Once Lunn's blog—which included serious insight about UConn football and some off-beat comments about his teammates—hit the media, it took off. It was constantly discussed "The Boneyard," a popular UConn football forum and by students on the UConn campus. Lunn’s mixture of humor and analysis was an instant success.
In one post, Lunn mentioned how he was flattered that Hughes called him "the brains of the defensive operation" in an ESPN interview.
"That is the same man who once told me I was playing so bad that I was stealing from the program being on scholarship," Lunn wrote. "Thanks coach, I think."
And his analysis on the Virginia fans: "There's something not so intimidating about fans that look like they just stepped out of J-Crew catalog," he wrote.
While picking on other teams—he called the West Virginia fans "toothless hicks"—certainly was a staple of the blog, making fun of his teammates, particularly good friend and standout linebacker Scott Lutrus, was a regular feature as well.
"Ever wonder how long it takes an All-American to get dressed to go out?" Lunn wrote in his blog for UConnBowl.com. "The answer is too long, my friends."
On their second day in Charlotte, N.C., the plan was for the team to be out in the city by 8 p.m. Apparently, that was a difficult task for UConn's star freshman linebacker. Here's how Lunn described the first twenty minutes of Lutrus' routine:
7:05: Enter Shower
7:06 Proceed to Sing UConn Fight Song
7:08 Proceed to Sing UConn Fight Song like Barry White
7:10 Proceed to Sing UConn Fight Song like Prince
7:15 Yell to Roommate if he has an Extra Loofa. (He didn't)
7:20 Exit Shower after having drained a good portion of the Atlantic Ocean
7:25 Don Hotel-Issue White Terry Cloth Robe
7:26 Ask Roommate "Does this make me look fat?" (It didn't)
Eventually, Edsall heard about the blog. He checked it out and immediately told Lunn to tone it down—especially when it came to making fun of people from the south—because "that sort of thing could affect recruiting," according to Lunn.
"At first, I think [Edsall] was a little scared by it," Lunn said. "If I did something wrong in practice, he thought it was a distraction."
"I'll shut it down right now," Lunn screamed in a high-pitch imitation of his coach. "I'll shut it the (expletive) down right now."
Luckily for Lunn, Edsall didn't shut it down.
Lunn blogged all the way through the season and then kept going when he was offered a one-year contract to play professional football in Austria for one year. Since then, the site has taken on a life of its own. With the help of some friends, Lunn has launched TheFatWhiteGuy.com, which is the same as his old blog, just with a more professional URL. His girlfriend’s roommate made flyers, T-Shirts and designed logos and graphics for the site.
"She's probably done $5,000-$10,000 of work and she's done it all for free," Lunn said. "Only in college can you have stuff like that done."
In addition to Thoughts from a Fat, White Guy, Lunn has blogged for Washington Redskins' Chris Cooley, who operates his own blog. Lunn has also done some work for the New England Sports Network, where he is a regular college football columnist.
"I'm making some money at NESN, so between that and football, I'm doing O.K. right now," Lunn said. "But I want to turn the writing thing into a full-time gig. I want to end up doing something like ESPN's Brian Bennett."
Lunn’s friends, including Schaub, couldn’t see it any other way.
“It’s the perfect job for him,” Schaub said. “Writing about football and making fun of people—those are his two passions. This is his dream job.”