Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy stresses responsibility, leadership in public speeches


Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 28, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 28 at 5:00 PM

By MIKE HEIKA / The Dallas Morning News |

Tony Dungy is coaching a different team these days, but he said the lessons are the same.

Retired after a successful NFL coaching career, Dungy remains popular as an author and speaker, delivering his Christian-based message of responsibility and persistence to an audience that seems to be eating it up.

"I'm not sure if there's more impact now, but people do seem to know me more when I'm out on the road or out in public," Dungy said Thursday at the SMU Athletic Forum, where he delighted a lunchtime crowd with tales of his climb up the football ladder. "But it's the same thing I've been telling players for years."

Dungy, 54, said the lessons of perseverance were first taught him by his father, Wilbur, who was trying to become a teacher while schools were still segregated, and continued by such coaching greats as Chuck Noll, for whom he played and later coached.

He said his dad taught him to never give up and always believe that you can make the world a better place. He said Noll taught him that the job of a coach is to make a player better on and off the field.

"It still holds true today," Dungy said. "You will have a better team if your players are in the right place both on and off the field."

That's not always a popular opinion in the world of the NFL, where performance often outweighs everything else. In fact, Dungy, who now serves as a studio analyst for NBC, created controversy recently when he made a public objection to the profanity used by Jets coach Rex Ryan on HBO's show Hard Knocks.

"People who are placed in a position of leadership do need to set an example," Dungy said.

Dungy, a safety in his NFL playing days, told the crowd about his first interception, which came against Roger Staubach at Texas Stadium. He noted that he's the last NFL player to throw an interception and intercept a pass in the same game, in 1977 when he was pressed into service as an emergency quarterback.

And, before the luncheon, he picked the Cowboys to make the Super Bowl.

"I'm on their bandwagon," he said.

Dungy proved in the NFL that a coach doesn't have to scream or yell or put in 80 hours a week to win. He led the Colts to an 85-27 record, five division titles and the Super Bowl XLI victory.

"Nice guys can finish first," he said, pointing to examples such as Lamar Hunt and Art Rooney. "You don't have to be a jerk to be good at what you do."