Today is Father’s Day. What better day to acknowledge our dads and the quintessential father figure of the NFL, former Coach Tony Dungy. Dungy grew up in Michigan, played quarterback for the University of Minnesota, went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, won a Superbowl, then began his coaching career with the Golden Gophers at his alma mater. He was brought back to the NFL as an assistant coach by the Steelers and was eventually hired as defensive coordinator by the Minnesota Vikings. During his tenure, the Vikings defense was ranked first in the NFL.
In 1996 Tony Dungy’s dream came true when he was named head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He led the Buccaneers to four playoff appearances, including the NFC Championship, but his failure to make it to the Superbowl got him fired by the team in 2002. The following season the Buccaneers not only made it to Superbowl XXXVII, they won it under new coach Jon Gruden. Dungy is widely credited with building the championship team.
During that time, Dungy was already busy building another team, the Indianapolis Colts. Under Dungy’s leadership from 2002-2008, the Colts made the playoffs every year. In 2006, the Colts won Superbowl XLI and made Tony Dungy the first African American coach to win the Lombardi Trophy. It also put him on a short list of three coaches who have won a Superbowl both as player and head coach. Dungy retired from coaching after the 2008 season. He remains the Colts’ winningest coach and holds the NFL record for consecutive playoff appearances by a head coach with 10. Dungy signed on as a commentator and is now entering his third season on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Records aside, what Tony Dungy will always be remembered for is how he achieved success both on and off the field. His coaching philosophy, messages on faith and family, and positive role model place him among (if not as) the NFL’s most beloved of coaches. The Cliff Huxtable of the NFL, Dungy didn’t just coach his players, he was active in youth mentoring, prison ministry, and even helped other NFL players and former players in need. He is largely credited with helping Michael Vick turn his life around and make his NFL comeback after serving time in prison on dogfighting charges. Warren Sapp, former Defensive Tackle for the Buccaneers, calls Dungy “The greatest man I ever met in my life.”
Outside of Sunday Night Football, Tony Dungy’s most visible role is as National Spokesperson for All Pro Dad, an organization that puts an emphasis on the importance of fatherhood and being a good dad. Faith first, family second, football third is Dungy’s philosophy. And while many may claim so, he actually did it when he retired from football in 2009 to spend more time with his family. It was a decision players and fans may not have liked, but they respected nonetheless.
In his book, Quiet Strength, Dungy says, “You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.” And that’s what real men do. Make life better for their families and others every day.
I won’t be with my dad on Father’s Day this year, but I will see him in Minnesota later this week when we celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. As the leader of our family, my dad also taught me what was important. To work hard, stay positive, and never give up. And that nothing came before family. And he did it by example. I am also lucky enough to be married to such a man.
So to all the dads, Coach Dungy, my dad, my husband…thank you. You taught us what is truly important in life, but better yet, you showed us. And you continue to do so every day.
Happy Father’s Day!