Tony Dungy: Born to Coach
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
Some say that behind every good sports team is a good coach. And the NFL’s Tony Dungy is a contender for greatness. He debuted as a head coach with Tampa Bay in 1996 and after six seasons became the head coach with the most wins in the franchise’s history. Then in 2002, he moved to the Indianapolis Colts.
Many NFL fans consider Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy one of the greatest to ever coach the game of football. In 2005, after a 13 game winning streak, he led his team to win two games before going to the Super Bowl.
Sports Producer, Shawn Brown got a chance to talk with Coach Dungy about what he thinks it takes to be successful.
"As a young kid I had a great background. My grandfather was a minister; I have two uncles that were ministers, and so I had that spiritual background. I accepted Christ early as a kid,” says Dungy.
Most people today know Tony Dungy as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. But as a kid growing up in Michigan, football wasn’t his favorite sport.
"Football was really my least favorite sport, and the last sport that I ended up picking up as a kid. My dad started me off with baseball, which most kids did at that time. I really enjoyed basketball. That was my favorite sport,” he adds.
His high school football coach saw something in Tony that set him apart—leadership potential.
“My high school football coach really stresses the idea that as the quarterback being the field general, you have to be in charge of the team. The guys are going to follow you, and you’ve got to know what you’re doing, and that was when I was 14-years-old in 10th grade.”
Dungy went on to play quarterback for the University of Minnesota. But after college, he wasn’t drafted, he made his way to the NFL --- but as a defensive player.
“As it turned out, it was a great move for me because I got to learn the defensive side of the ball, and it really prepared me to be a coach,” says Dungy.
Then in 1981, Tony Dungy became "Coach Dungy" when he was hired as an assistant coach by the Steelers. After three years he moved on to be assistant coach of the Chiefs and the Vikings. Then, in 1996 the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened up.
“Most people told me, 'Well, I wouldn’t even go for the interview, because they’re going to hire Jimmy Johnson, or they’re going to hire Steve Spurior.' But I went there, and things just kind of fell that way," says Dungy. "Steve stayed at the University of Florida, Jimmy Johnson went to the Dolphins, and so they began to search in earnest, and I ended up getting the job. It was neat because it wasn’t one of those things where I said, 'Well, I’ve planned this all along, and I know I’m going to be there.' The way that I got there let me know that it was really the Lord doing it.”
At the time he was one of only three African American head coaches in the NFL.
“That’s the thing I’m so excited about. When I was15- years-old, I couldn’t look at the NFL and look on TV and say, 'Boy, there’s a head coach, African American. That’s something I’d like to do.' I think there’s young men now when I go to schools, I try to talk to them and say, 'Yeah, it’s great, dream about being the quarterback, dream about being Marvin Harrison, but also you can be the head coach. You can be the general manager.' ”
After six years Tampa, in a surprise move, let Dungy go.
“When I got let go at Tampa, I really felt that the Lord was either trying to get me to see some type of opportunity there in Tampa outside of football that I wouldn’t have experienced if I’d continued coaching or that he was moving me to another city in the football world.”
The Indianapolis Colts hired Dungy as head coach in 2002.
Tony has been a consecutive coach for almost 6 years, with the most wins in the NFL. He has a lot to say on leadership.
“The thing I tell my team, a lot of being a great leader is knowing where you’re going and who you’re following. I think that’s very important. I think the best leaders are following Christ. And that’s the best leader you can follow,” says Dungy.
Like every coach, Dungy has had to deal with highs, lows, wins, and losses. And though it’s too painful for him to discuss, he’s even had to endure the death of a son.
“I have ups and downs. I have negative thoughts, negative actions, and I don’t win every game. I have the same issues that everybody else has. What I’ve tried to do is use my faith in my job, and let my faith direct me.”
“You have to know what really important in life. As big a deal as the Super Bowl is, it’s not the most important thing going on in the planet. I think as Christians, the Lord wants us to do well. He wants us to give our best, and He wants us to have success in what we do. So you have to remember that balance. I’m going to do everything I can and use all the gifts that God has given me. But I’m also going to keep in mind eternity.”
“If people didn’t know me, and only knew my public persona, what I’d want them to know is everything that I do ... I do for the glory of Lord and because of my Christian faith. that’s who I am.,“he believes.
Even though the Colts are hoping for a Super Bowl championship, Coach Dungy knows one thing.
“In the long run it’s not how many games you win, it's not how much publicity you have if you in a job that has notoriety or it doesn’t. It's two teams -- you’re on God’s team through Jesus or you’re on the opponent. And if you’re not on God’s team, you’re going to lose in the long run. You may be ahead for 59 minutes of the game, but you’re going to lose the game and the only way to win it is to get on Jesus’ side.”
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