A Quiet Strength for a Winning Life
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
Victory, how sweet it is? In February of 2007, Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy went head-to-head with longtime friend and Chicago head coach Lovie Smith for Super Bowl XLI. But in the end, Tony was victorious!
700 Club reporter, Shawn Brown sat down with Coach Dungy to discuss this milestone in his career.
Shawn Brown: Coach, how does it feel to be the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl?
Tony Dungy: It’s quite an honor Shawn. And it's something that I thought about as time was winding down. Well, the African American aspect was something that I was so proud of. I knew that the the most qualified didn’t necessarily have to be the first one. But I was so proud to have done it. And I was proud to be there with Lovie, and I know how historic that event was. I know how it made the African community feel.
Brown: With all of the excitement, it didn’t seem like ... I mean obviously you were excited for what you did and what your accomplishment was and considering everything that you came through ... it wasn’t the most important thing to you?
Dungy: It wasn’t. And maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. But with all of that, it wasn’t the greatest thing for me. What I was really proud of was the fact that Lovie and I were there at the ultimate game, and people could see that, as a Christian, you can honor the Lord. You can do your job and no matter what the environment, no matter what the job, you can attain excellence and still have the faith in the Lord and still show those Christian values.
Brown: Did you think about what you were going to say as you went up to the interview?
Dungy: I actually did. I thought about it all week and I knew, you know from watching the games that, hey, if we win, I’m going to be on that platform with 100 million people watching, and what do I say? I knew I wanted to talk about the role of the Lord in my life and why we were there. And it wasn’t just to win the game.
But winning came with a price. A few years earlier, Dungy was fired after six seasons with Tampa Bay ... which left him with no job and cleaning out his office in the rain.
Brown: Do you think it would have been as bittersweet as it was if you hadn’t gone through that?
Dungy: That’s a good question. I think the Lord has a plan and a path, and it ended up being fantastic. I think it had a great impact for God. And it was special for me after the disappointments, after being close but not getting there. Finally winning did feel that much better. So I don’t know if it would have been the same if we had just gone straight and won out there or if we hadn’t had that experience in Tampa.
Brown: I want to talk about your coaching style. The title of the book is Quiet Strength, and that says a lot. Why did you take that approach?
Dungy: I think that’s my personality and the way I was raised. I know when I came up through the National Football League and was getting promotion; It got to the point where people said, “I don’t know if this will work at that ultimate level, you know. You could be a pretty good assistant coach or position coach or maybe even a coordinator, but when it comes to the head coach, we need somebody who’s demonstrative or whatever.” I always felt that [quiet style] could work because the best coaches I’ve played for, guys like Coach Knoll were like that. We looked at them and we knew they were in control, and that’s the thing that we wanted. And I hope that’s what my players think about me ... that, its not that I have to motivate them, it’s not that I have to be loud and the demonstrative one out in front, but they can always look to me to be in control of the situation, and you can do that quietly.
Brown: You start out the book with 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.” Why did you choose to start with that?
Dungy: I think for me, it is the thing because you can’t think, "Hey, if I become a Christian everything’s going to be perfect, everything’s going to row smoothly, everything’s going to be fine." You are going to to have disappointments. You are going to have things that come up against you. In football, you’re not going to win every game. So how do you respond? It’s by knowing that God’s in charge and eventually, He’s going to bring glory to Himself in all your situations, in your victories, and in your defeats. So I think that is the crux of the book that hey, no matter what happens, we can look towards the Lord and know that in the end, we’re going to have success.
But in November of 2005, Coach Dungy suffered the ultimate loss, when he received news that his oldest son, James committed suicide.
Brown: I want to talk about James and how you were able to come back from that, losing a son who goes on to be with the Lord. Where do you draw the strength?
Dungy: It is really tough when you have the loss of a loved one, especially a child. And for me, the strength was in the Lord and knowing that he was a Christian and going to heaven. That was important. But also from the people that we heard from, and so many people rallied around us, and we heard from people who had experienced similar things. And you realize that you can move on, you can go forward. You make it in the Lord’s strength. And we kinda took that approach. We wanted to be able to do that and help minister to other people along the way. So looking forward is critical. It means, what does God have in store for me? It's not really focusing on the loss or the sorrow or the pain, but, what does God have in store in the future that’s going to be so bright?
Brown: Do you believe that everything that you have gone through, from Tampa to family things that you’ve dealt with, has made you stronger in your faith?
Dungy: I absolutely do. And I think it's all been an important part of developing me to who I am so that I can pass that on to my children and to the people that work with me on the team ... that they get a sense of seeing how God has worked in my life, and that lets them see, really what the Lord is all about.
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