Dungy Feels Need To Coach In Game Of Life

By Joe Henderson
Updated: May 11, 2005

Tony Dungy

TAMPA – If winning football games and championships were the only things that mattered to Tony Dungy, the following statement might not make much sense. But knowing him as we do around these parts, it’s logical that everyone’s favorite role model doesn’t plan to coach much longer.

After four or five more seasons on the NFL sidelines, presumably with the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy plans to walk away. He’ll be no older than 55 when that happens, an age when some coaches are just beginning to figure out the job.

“I started coaching when I was 25, and I’m almost 50 now,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time around guys I really enjoyed, like John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn. I saw them grow into what they are now, and that was fantastic too.

“But there’s another side of me that would like to make a difference through service. I’d like to get back to Tampa and get involved in something – I don’t know what yet. It may be with Family First and go full- time with them, but I’ve done some stuff with Abe Brown’s prison ministry. That’s fascinating to me.”

Family First, a non-profit agency, pushes the philosophy that family should be the top priority in people’s lives. That’s part of the reason Dungy has been in town the past couple of days, to promote a program of Family First called “All Pro Dad.”

It encourages men to love their wives, spend time with their children and basically accept the concept that being a father is their most important job. Check it out at www.allprodad.com.

All Pro Human

Dungy, as we know, does more than just lend his name to things like this. Ask him to speak, and he’ll be there. Ask him to visit, and count on it being done.

Brown, a College Hill minister, asked Dungy if he’d take his talk of personal responsibility to the place where society sends some of its neediest souls.

Dungy, of course, said OK.

“A large percentage of our community is in prison – too many, to be honest with you,” Brown said. “Any time we can help them see the light, we do it. Tony has been very inspirational. We sure don’t have any problem getting people to turn out when Tony is there. There are no eyes turned away when he talks.

“He took time out, not to go to dinner, but to go to prison and help.”

Keep Trying

This outlook helps Dungy remain focused amid the hype of his more visible profession. Football is important but only in context. Keeping kids straight and giving them hope is the real thing.

That’s why he and Brown have visited more than a half- dozen prisons in Florida.

They have gone into correctional institutions. They have gone to federal prisons. Brown has been doing this for nearly 30 years, and he knew Dungy could make a difference.

“When I first started going, I expected to see these rough, tough guys, but what I saw are guys who are 17, 19 years old, and they could be your sons,” Dungy said.

That’s why he could walk away, even in his prime. He wants to win a Super Bowl as badly as anyone, but this man was made to help in ways that have more to do with Sunday morning than Sunday afternoon.

“This job [coaching] is a neat platform to reach people,” he said.

The people who matter most.

The people for whom he is willing to walk away.