After spending 30 years either playing or coaching in the NFL, one could say that former NFL head coach Tony Dungy has been around the block.
Not only did Dungy spend four years playing defensive back, including a Super Bowl-winning year in Pittsburgh in 1978, but from 1981 to 2008, Dungy poured his time and effort into the game as a coach. Dungy was a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and, eventually, a head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts.
His journey through the NFL left him with two Super Bowl rings (one as a player and one as a coach), the 11th-best winning percentage for a head coach in NFL history and countless lives touched.
But in 2008, Dungy left the game, although not completely. Dungy took on a position at NBC as an NFL analyst for their Sunday Night Football and Football Night in America programs.
With a new perspective on the game, Dungy says the importance of preparation has become more and more apparent.
"More games are lost than won, and preparation is doing the right things in how you win," Dungy said in an interview with Bleacher Report this past week. "Watching 13 games a week from the studio, you see the errors and teams not being prepared, and then you see the really good teams doing what they should do in critical situations."
It's that preparation aspect that may get glossed over when thinking about replacing what Reggie Wayne gave the Colts.
Wayne, who tore his ACL and meniscus late in Week 7's matchup against the Broncos, is the Colts' No. 1 receiver and third-down contributor, but also was a 13-year veteran whose presence in the locker room and practice field can't be understated.
"Reggie made big plays, made the third down catches, the key drives, big touchdown catches, etc.," Dungy said. "But it’s not just that but how you practice, how you go about your week, the kind of calming presence he had."
If anyone can step up and fill that leadership void, Dungy says it's Andrew Luck, who has impressed anybody and everybody who has spent time with him over the last year-and-a-half.
"Jim Irsay invited me out to the first practice Luck ever had, and right away you could see the command he had, the knowledge of the game," Dungy said. "He is just so prepared, and his team believed in him, and that is just so unusual for a rookie.
"He has this ability to keep everything in perspective. You can look to that whole week with Manning coming back and all the media tension that surrounded it. Andrew was just kind of oblivious to that. He just did his job and prepared and played the game as if he were the only one out there."
While Luck might have been able to block out the hoopla that surrounded the Colts' upset win over Denver, the Colts' former quarterback and all-time great Peyton Manning seemed to have a more difficult time.
Manning, who received a video tribute from the Colts prior to the game, looked uncomfortable throughout the game, both physically and emotionally. He later expressed that he was relieved when it was all over. Dungy saw the game as a comparison to his return to Tampa Bay in 2003 with the Colts.
"You try and block out the emotions and the thoughts, but you really can’t," Dungy said. "You’ve just invested too much personally.
"With the type of person he is, and everything that went on in his life in Indianapolis, Peyton couldn’t help but be impacted by the game. To come back and say 'I’ll just play the game and think about it afterward;' it’s just not going to happen."
Life After Football
Dungy knows more than most the investment that the NFL takes from its players and coaches. Now, however, Dungy spends more and more time working on his off-the-field endeavors, programs that he works tirelessly on in order to benefit others.
"I always wanted to support Christian activity, education and young people," Dungy said. "But you really have to figure out, from a time standpoint, what you can get involved with, what you can support."
The award is named after Dylan Rebeor, a high school football player who passed away in a bout with cancer in 2010. Before he passed away, however, Rebeor had one last gift to share with his community.
"When he was faced with tragedy, rather than getting his own needs taken care of, he said 'I'd rather see my teammates get new uniforms,'" Dungy said. "It touched everybody. It’s a great story, one of those where you can now help a community, help a team and help young people."
The tragedy of a high school football player losing his life is one that may never be explained, but Dungy is no stranger to such adversity.
In 2005, Dungy's son James committed suicide in his Tampa-area apartment in an event that rocked the Dungy family and the Colts organization. For Dungy, these events would not be bearable without his faith.
“Why does this happen? What is this all about?" Dungy said. "You realize as a Christian that God uses all these events and you have to move on and grow from them. You have to have that attitude. You can’t look at it like 'why me?' but just, what is God trying to do and how can we grow from this?"
Some of this philosophy has come as a result of Dungy's position at NBC, where he says the ability to see every game each week widens one's perspective.
"You see is that there is more to life than football," Dungy said. "You see some of the hits, the concussions and the off-the-field issues and you realize that there is more than just that game that we play for 60 minutes on Sunday."
If you would like to submit an entry for Fight Like Dylan, head to facebook.com/RussellAthletic, and click on the “Fight Like Dylan 2013” tab. There you can post an entry explaining how your team overcame a challenge or triumphed in the face of adversity. Anyone is eligible to submit an entry on behalf of their favorite high school team now through December 2nd.
All quotes were obtained first-hand by the reporter.
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