The past 12 months have been quite memorable for Carlos Dunlap.
The Bengals defensive end is entering his seventh NFL season and just enjoyed the best season of his career, racking up a career-high 13.5 sacks to go with 55 tackles and two forced fumbles in 2015. Those 13.5 sacks were also a team-high and the fourth most of any NFL player last season.
For his efforts, Dunlap received several honors for his on-field play, including a berth in the Pro Bowl and a spot on the NFL Top 100 Players show as the 70th-ranked player.
Now, Dunlap is picking up awards for his off-field efforts as well. ESPN just announced nominees for various honors in the 2016 Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, which honors various sports leagues, teams, individuals and members of the sporting community that are using the power of sport to make a positive impact on society.
Dunlap is a finalist for Sports Humanitarian of the Year, which recognizes an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports. This year's winner gets a $100,000 grant from ESPN for donating to the qualified charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts. The finalists will be able to direct a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their award-winning efforts, so Dunlap is already in on that.
Here is his bio for the nomination:
Fueled by the passion of his parents, education has always been a priority for Carlos Dunlap. That’s why he created the Dunlap Scholars Program, which provides ACT and SAT prep and college readiness courses, mentoring and job interview training to underprivileged student athletes in Cincinnati. From throwing birthday parties for homeless kids who have never had one, to hosting a back to school "fun day" to get kids the important supplies they need, Dunlap is personally invested in ensuring youth feel nurtured and supported.
Coincidentally, Local 12's Perry Schaible just did feature on Dunlap and his efforts to serve in the community and building his own team.
"If can spread a little bit of me in the community, I feel like that's building my team even larger so we can do more powerful, bigger things," Dunlap said. "By taking my helmet off, it means getting in the community, interacting with the community, the fans, and helping uplift the community because I too live here. This is my home."
In 2015, Dunlap was the Bengals' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award and despite that, Dunlap hasn't gotten enough credit for his off-field contributions for most of his career, so it's great to see him getting that recognition on a national level.
Going back to his on-field efforts, Dunlap is hoping to accomplish even bigger feats in 2016. 2015 was the first time Dunlap reached double-digit sacks after getting 15.5 from 2013-14 combined. He's now looking to break Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record of 22.5.
Even if he comes up short of that goal, Dunlap is still the kind of star every team in the NFL wishes they had for his on and off the field actions. Luckily, it's the Bengals who get to call him a member of their team.