Still Trying To Reach Others

By D. Orlando Ledbetter
Updated: March 22, 2010

ATLANTA — After his first full NFL season in retirement, former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy has found joy off the field.

He served as a studio analyst on NBC, and that kept him close to the game, but his off-the-field projects are now his main focus.

One of his passions is serving as the national spokesman for All Pro Dad, the fatherhood program of Family First, a national nonprofit organization based in Tampa.

Dungy will be in town to speak to about 325 kids and their dads at Stonewall Tell Elementary School on Friday in Atlanta, before heading to the University of Georgia, where he will be the featured speaker at a coaching clinic.

The mission of the organization is to find a way for men who are passionate about football and sports to transfer some of that enthusiasm into raising their kids.

The group started with Dungy inviting dads to bring their kids to watch the Bucs practice in 1997. Now, he makes at least one speaking engagement month, and more than 60 NFL players and coaches are involved.

“The big thing is just to be involved and have that commitment to be involved,” Dungy said via phone from Tampa on Thursday. “It’s really just having that commitment.”

“As a father, I can’t just turn everything over to the mom and just say ‘I’m the breadwinner, the guy that supplies the income and mom does everything else.’ The dads are very important in the nurturing and helping those kids to grow.”

In his book, “Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life,” Dungy writes about growing up with loving and caring parents, CleoMae and Wilbur, in Jackson, Mich., and about how he dealt with trying to reconcile the loss of his son, who committed suicide.

Dungy knows that having a two-parent household no longer is a sweeping reality.

“I can’t even imagine not having my dad there and the impact that he had on me, the lessons that I learned from just watching him, the fun that I had with him and realizing that over 50 percent of our kids are now not getting that because we don’t have dads in the home or don’t have them involved,” Dungy said.

“Not everybody is going to have the ideal situation where the dad is at home. But we can still be involved and understand what the impact is that you can have in your kids’ lives.”

Projects such as his work for All Pro Dad have made Dungy’s transition into retirement go smoothly. In addition to his much-publicized mentoring for Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, Dungy has done some prison-outreach work and hopes to start a youth-outreach program.

“It’s really been rewarding,” Dungy said.

Getting back into coaching doesn’t appear to be on Dungy’s radar screen.

“I really don’t think so,” Dungy said. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing now.”