Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Tony Dungy's retirement conference began with him walking on the stage with his wife, Lauren, by his side. Colts general manager Jim Irsay and owner Bill Polian, both of whom struggled with their emotions during their introductions, introduced him.

That says it all about the greatest coach of this era. A man, whose life was bigger than football, touched lives around him and brought a quiet intensity to his 13 years as a head coach.

Dungy left his post as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday and for a man who accomplished plenty on the field, he will be forever known for what he did off of it.

He didn't just want to win, but wanted to be remembered for how he won. His teams won with character, played with discipline and shined on defense like Dungy used to as a former defensive back in Pittsburgh.

The record will show that he won 139 games, including a record six consecutive seasons with more than 12 wins. He is the first coach in NFL history to reach the playoffs in 10 straight years and is second all-time in winning percentage with one team (.759 in his seven years with Indianapolis).

In Tampa Bay, he inherited a team that hadn't had a winning season since 1982. By his second season in 1997, he had them in the playoffs and in 1999; they won their first divisional title since 1981.

Indianapolis saw their fortunes turn around in similar fashion when Dungy arrived in 2002. Seven years, six division titles and a Super Bowl later, they played witness to the greatest era in that franchise's history since moving from Baltimore in 1984.

But all of that pales in comparison to the impact he's had in the lives of the men he coached and the communities he was a part of.

He didn't just coach, but he taught. It's no surprise that he got that from his mother, an English teacher and it's no surprise that Dungy began his speech by thanking her and his father for showing him how to treat people right.

As the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl, Dungy was proud of the fact that he could help other African-American coaches get opportunities. Three of his protŽgŽs (Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin) are coaching today and a fourth (Jim Caldwell) will follow him as the Colts coach.

It's no surprise that he and Lauren will be in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. They share similar qualities, men of steely resolve who made history on their terms.

But more important than anything, was God and family. Dungy always made time for his six children and when he lost his son James committed suicide in 2005, a nation mourned with them.

His commitment to his family was evident in his communities as he worked with several charitable organizations involving young people. It showed as he encouraged his players to be role models and be men that kids could emulate.

His faith is well worn on his sleeve and when he credited God for any significant moment or discussed the role prayer played in his decision-making, it felt earnest and sincere.

He used the word "blessed" often on Monday to describe how he felt about this journey and he talked about going wherever the Lord led him. For many who find strength in their faith, he was a role model for living it and finding success.

If you haven't read his book Quiet Strength, now would be a good time to pick it up. It's not just an autobiography; it's life lessons from a man who always gave more than he received.

Dungy said that he's received thousands of compliments and well wishes from people who got something of it. It's no surprise because that's been his mission all along.

He was a man who impacted lives. Not just his players, but coaches, team officials and employees who encountered him.

It will be a glorious day in Canton when Dungy is rightly inducted as one of the game's greatest coaches. They'll roll out his accomplishments, talk about the "Tampa 2" defense - his unique twist to the Cover 2 defense -and rightly honor a man who gave his all to football but gave even more away from it.

The record will show that Dungy lost his final game in overtime to San Diego. But all who know his career will say that he walked off the field at Qualcomm Stadium a winner who not only changed the fortunes of two teams, but showed us how to win and live with class, dignity and quiet strength.

 

Category: Football


 

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