NY Jets Defensive Line Coach, Karl Dunbar, has lived with vitiligo since the 7th grade. In case you don’t remember, being different in the 7th grade is a big deal. Vitiligo is a chronic disease that causes a loss of pigment in the skin and can be treated but not cured and has helped shape Coach Dunbar into the man he is today.
Now, Dunbar lives his life with passion and understands that he is defined by what he does, not by how he looks…and this guy has done a lot. Karl embodies the message of acceptance in his every day life since his “difference” is always on display to the outside world –a valuable life lesson for us all to remember.
As a role model for those living with vitiligo or any limiting medical condition, Coach Dunbar sheds some light from his own experiences.
1. How has living with Vitiligo defined you as a person?
I feel as if Vitiligo hasn’t defined me, but I have defined it. Vitiligo doesn’t stop me from doing anything I want to do but in some instances it open doors for me because it’s an ice-breaker.
2. At what age did you realize that what you do is more important than how your look?
Early in my life, I realized that people judged books by their covers and not their content, so I knew that actions speak louder than words, so I always tried to do what was right.
3. Was there a single defining moment when it became clear to you what you were meant to be doing? What was that moment?
When I was a young Coach, I figured that God put me here for a reason and I started to seek that reason. As I got closer to Him, he made it clear, that I was here to mentor young men and women and help them be happy with who they are and not what others think of them. The moment was 1998 and I was a first year coach at Nicholls State in Thibodeaux LA. I started a players Bible Study with Josh Higgins. Josh and I are still friends and he’s over Chi-Alpha at LSU now.
4. Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up, when your dreams seemed impossible?
I don’t think of giving up now because I’m stronger, but when I was younger, I thought of giving up every day. I hated the way people looked at me and stared at me. Once I became happy with me, the stares were welcomed. I just said to myself that they were looking at a beautiful piece of art (that God made). My dreams never seemed impossible to me because it wasn’t about how I looked. It was about my ability.
5. What is your personal philosophy on how to live with your skin condition?
My philosophy on how to live with my skin condition is to love you first, and then others will. It’s hard for others to love us when we don’t love ourselves. We put off negative vibes. I like the saying by Terrell Owens “I love me some me.”
6. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest moment in my career to this point is the six years I spent in Minnesota and the men I helped mentor as a coach and a person. The next chapter is now in New Jersey with the Jets.
7. What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest personal moment is helping my wife raise our kids to be great people – an accomplishment that’s a lifelong labor of love.
8. What do you teach your children about living with vitiligo?
My kids grew up with me having vitiligo, so it wasn’t until they were 9 or 10 years old when I explained to them what it was. The thing that I hope they learned from all the talks we had is whether or not a person becomes your friend shouldn’t depend on how they look or what they have, but on how they treat you (actions/content).
9. What do you want others to remember, when they are going through a difficult time and feel like giving up?
When people are going through difficult times, the one thing I hope they would remember is the only power people have over you is what you give them. I’ve always believed in something greater than me and that’s God.
P.S. The Dunbars are all safe. Witnessed a lot of destruction, but the crews are busy at work. Lets go NJ and NY!