A Reason to Believe

Kristin HamlinSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2008

“I really wanted to show people you can win all kinds of ways.  I always coached the way I’ve wanted to be coached."  -Tony Dungy.

If I were able to hand out an award for “Classiest Man on the Football Field”, I’d hand it out to Tony Dungy.  I wouldn’t even have to give it more than a second of a thought.

I was too young to ever watch Tony actually play football, but from what I have read, he was actually really good. He signed as a defensive back, but also played as a reserve-special teams player for the Steelers in 1977 and the Super Bowl champion 1978 seasons.  He led his team in interceptions during the latter.

Additionally, Dungy is the only NFL player since the AFL-NFL merger to intercept a pass and throw an interception in the same game.

I first heard of Tony Dungy in 1996 when he was named the NFL coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I later found out that prior to Tampa Bay, he was an assistant coach with the Steelers and a defensive coordinator for the Vikings where his defense was ranked #1 during his tenure.

He coached in Tampa Bay for 6 years.  In those 6 years, a mediocre, at best, Tampa Bay team morphed into a Championship team.  They made four playoff appearances and won their division in 1999.  However, Tampa Bay struggled in the playoffs and were offensively shut out. 

The Bucs just couldn’t capture a play-off win.

Tony Dungy was fired by the Tampa Bay organization in 2002.

Some can say he didn’t turn that team around; don't be so narrow minded.  The very next year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.  While I applaud Jon Gruden for his coaching abilities, my credit for building that Championship team goes to Tony.

January 22, 2002 the Colts won the lottery. 

I am pretty sure it's a safe bet that not one Colts player would ever want to play under another coach, so long as Dungy is in the league.

Though Dungy struggled to fix the Colts defense right away, he realized that things take time.  He would be the thing that most coaches have never heard of.

He would be patient.

As Lovie Smith was quoted saying about his dear friend, “I think as you look to young coaches coming up in the ranks, a lot of us have a picture of how a coach is supposed to be, how he is supposed to act……And I think what Tony Dungy showed me is you don’t have to act that way”

Dungy learned a valuable lesson from his former high school coach Chuck Noll, in that it takes all 53 players on the team to win.  He will train the 33rd player on the roster like he is the second player.

He will ensure that every single player on his team feels equally important. 

Perhaps more coaches should take after Tony.

Tony Dungy coaches everyone the same way.  He has a teacher’s mentality in which if there is a problem, he shows his guys how to solve it. 

He is also a humble man. You never hear him speaking of himself or his accomplishments/achievements. 

As a fellow Indianapolis researcher said, “Humility does not mean you think less of yourself, it just means you think more of others. That’s who Tony Dungy is.  Always deflecting the attention and credit to others—his coaches, his players, his parents, his wife and his children”

Speaking of his family, let me just add in something I have wanted to get out there for some time now.  Most of us know about the death of Tony’s son, James, in December of 2005. 

3 days before Christmas. 

15 days before his 19th Birthday. 

I think it’s safe to say that most of us expected Tony to handle it in the manner he did.  He handled it with courage.  He handled it with dignity.  More importantly, he handled it with the thing that mattered most to him. 


Dungy spoke about his son for the first time a couple years ago at an NFL breakfast.  I’ve included his quote, as it was so powerful, I am still in awe.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons from my sons Eric and Jordan.  But the most important thing came from James.  The lesson is this:

“If God had talked to me before James’ death and said his death would have helped all these people, it would have saved them and healed their sins, but I would have to take your son, I would have said no, I can’t do that. But some good things have come out of it”, he said, wiping back a tear.  “Two people have received the gift of sight from my son’s donated corneas”.

Then Dungy told his team, in his first remarks to them since James' death, how proud he was of them. "You are the best role models this society could have,'' he said.

This is a man that just went through probably one of the worst things imaginable, and he still has the faith to see the good in things, 2 months after he lost his son?

This is also a man that while taking a week off from coaching to mourn his son's loss, was more worried about how his team was handling things rather than himself. 

He is not someone that I would want to "just" coach my football team; I would want him as a mentor and as a friend.

If only I were so lucky.

The Colts are an even 4 and 4 this year.  I am rooting for them to somehow turn it around and win the Championship.  I know their chances are slim.

But they seem a lot greater with Tony Dungy on the sidelines.

Recently, I wrote an article about Michael & Marcus Vick and got a lot of mixed reviews as to why the Vicks should be allowed back in the NFL and some even went as far as saying that Michael could be a role model to people if he changed. 

I would love the Vick brothers to spend a week with Dungy.  If they didn't come out changed men, well then I don't think there would be any hope.

I write my articles based on facts.  I write them with passion.  I never will be bias and will always give credit where credit is due.

This article is giving all the credit to a man who rightfully deserves it.

This article is giving credit to a man that would probably read this and then tell me why it's not him that deserves the credit, but everyone else instead.

I don’t think there could be a better conclusion to my article than to a quote that Warren Sapp responded to when asked what he thought about Tony Dungy. 

“The greatest man I’ve ever met in my life”


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