This week has been all about Birthdays! As a first time GREAT grandparent, I am overjoyed to welcome a new member to the Sharp family, as little Asher James Terry was born this past Wednesday. However, my plan was to celebrate another person who recently had a birthday, and that person is Anthony Kevin Dungy, better known to most of us as Tony Dungy. This great Coach, Father, Author, Broadcaster, Christian, and genuine great person, turned 66 years of age, a few weeks ago; on October 6th (1955).
Now in Athletics, as it often is in life, the challenge can be; how to become the very best athlete/person, compete at the highest level possible, seek perfection, and be better than the other team or person. However, many people see this as contradictory to leading a Christian life. If there is one thing Tony Dungy has taught us, it is that being a Christian, while having the drive to accomplish such things, is exactly what God wants from all of us. As you will see, Tony has exemplified these very traits in everything he has done. Unselfishly sharing his time and commitment to give us all a better world and chance to succeed.
First, we have to start with the man himself. Tony was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan. His parents were Wilbur Dungy (1926–2004), a science professor at Jackson College, and Cleomae Dungy (1920–2002), who taught Shakespeare at Jackson High School. Wilbur served as a pilot in the Army Air Forces during World War II with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. After graduating from Parkside High School in 1973, Dungy played college football at the University of Minnesota, and was the Gophers' most valuable player at quarterback in 1975 and 1976. In 1977, he was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor, recognizing one student athlete from the graduating class of each Big Ten member school, for demonstrating joint athletic and academic excellence throughout their college career.
After this stellar college career, he went on to professional football success as well, playing on the 1979 Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers. He made the leap to coaching and as a defensive coordinator, in 1996, designed one of the most played and successful defensive schemes, the so-called Tampa 2. The Tampa 2, is quite successfully used today by many defensive minded teams, throughout all of football, college and professional alike.
He coached Tampa for 6 years and was fired on January 14, 2002 for what the owner called a too conservative offensive strategy. When he was fired, he was the only coach in Tampa history to leave with a winning record and multiple playoff appearances. I can honestly remember this well as I told my wife Sarah; “I am so thrilled they fired Tony because that gives the Colts an opportunity to hire a great coach.” Eight days later, Tony was hired by the Indianapolis Colts. From that date until he retired in 2008, the Colts never missed the playoffs and won the Super Bowl for the 2006 season, on February 4, 2007. In 2016, Coach Dungy, along with former Colt wide receiver Marvin Harrison, were elected to the Pro football Hall of Fame.
Dungy, a strong man of faith and a TRUE family man, went onto many very successful ventures. In August 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Dungy a member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. After receiving the call from President Bush, Dungy remarked "It was something that was really hard to believe. Certainly, when you go into football coaching, you’re not expecting to get presidential appointments to anything." In March 2009 President Barack Obama invited Dungy to join the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He declined the invitation to join the council because of scheduling conflicts, as he could make only two of 2009's four council meetings, but agreed to be an informal adviser on fatherhood issues. He had also turned down offers from National Football League Players' Association to become liaison to the NFL.
Dungy is a strong Christian man and at one point in his coaching career considered leaving football for the prison ministry. His tenure in Tampa Bay brought greater attention to his personal accomplishments outside of sports. While in Tampa Bay, Dungy worked as a public speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes in Action. He also helped create the fatherhood program, AllProDad, which is committed to bringing attention to the importance of fathers in the lives of their children.
He began a mentoring program for young people called Mentors for Life, and provided Buccaneers' tickets for the participants. He also supported other charitable programs in the area such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, the Prison Crusade Ministry, foster parenting organizations, and Family First. He continues to assist Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club in Indianapolis. He also supports the Black Coaches Association National Convention and Indiana Black Expo.
In Indianapolis, Dungy helped launch the Basket of Hope program at the Riley Hospital for Children. Basket of Hope is a national non-profit organization which began in 1995. Tony is the National Spokesperson for Basket of Hope and delivers the baskets filled with age and gender appropriate toys, games and craft items to Riley Hospital for Children. Along with the baskets, he delivers a Hope Tote, which includes his book Quiet Strength, a journal, a Bible, Christian music, and other inspirational materials. Dungy worked with Basket of Hope and Riley Hospital for Children to implement the Super Baskets of Hope project where 7,000 baskets and totes were delivered to the 32 NFL cities and participating hospitals during the weeks surrounding Super Bowl XLVI.
Dungy is married to Lauren Harris Dungy of Pittsburgh and the couple have seven children together; two daughters and five sons, and they also have adopted eight children over the past two decades. They lost their oldest son James, who died by suicide at age 18, outside of Tampa in 2005.
On February 27, 2008, Indiana Wesleyan University honored Dungy in a ceremony where he was inducted into IWU's Society of World Changers. Dungy also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the university. On August 5, 2009, Dungy was a featured speaker at the 53rd General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Dungy is also known as an author. His memoir, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life, was released on July 10, 2007 and twice reached No. 1 on the hardcover nonfiction section of the New York Times Best Seller list. Tyndale House Publishers said it was the first NFL-related book ever ranked No. 1. When asked why he wrote Quiet Strength, Dungy said,
"It's not something I ever really thought of doing. I've had several people ask me about it for a number of years. Several people asked about it after winning (the Super Bowl). I was hoping, really, not to do it... I think it becomes kind of what happens. You win a Super Bowl, you have a big achievement, and you write a book. And I didn't want to be one of those guys, but a lot of people thought that it was the right time – and it did turn out to be that. I think people were looking for something positive to read, and we had a lot of negative in the sports world. I think it just came out at the right time. Maybe the Lord's timing was good."
Dungy said he'd actually gotten "more satisfaction" from the success of Quiet Strength than the Super Bowl win. That's because, he said, "I’ve gotten so many calls and letters from people saying they really got something out of it, something that helped them." On January 10, 2008, Quiet Strength reached 1 million copies in print. Quiet Strength was on the New York Times Best Seller List for 32 weeks, including 27 in the top 10 for hardcover nonfiction.
When asked if Dungy would consider writing a follow-up to Quiet Strength, Dungy said, "Three months ago, I would've said 'no' for sure. But the impact of this one has been beyond what I could've dreamed and there may be another one in the future. The focus would probably be on how to develop leadership and a coaching strategy for whatever business you're in; coaching for your family, business, or sport based on Christian principles."
Dungy published a 24-page children's picture book called You Can Do It with Little Simon Inspirations, a division of Simon & Schuster on July 8, 2008, reached No. 1 on the children's picture books section of the New York Times Best Seller list and stayed on the top 10 for 5 weeks. The book tells the story of Dungy's younger brother Linden who struggles, then figures out his life dream and is encouraged by his family to follow that dream as a dentist. Dungy said that his other hopes for You Can Do It were that it would encourage parents to read to their kids and that kids would learn the lesson of pursuing whatever field they were talented in, even if it might not be the popular thing to do.
Dungy has also published Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance, a book revealing lessons on achieving significance that Dungy has learned. The book, released on February 17, 2009, with Tyndale House Publishers, particularly focuses on what it means to be a man of significance in a culture that is offering young men few positive role models. Dungy said,
"Our young men today are falling into a trap... Society is telling them material success is what's important, but if we buy into that idea, we can spend a lifetime chasing that success and never really have the positive impact on people that would make our lives truly significant."
On August 3, 2010 Dungy released a new book entitled The Mentor Leader, and on January 11, 2011, Dungy and wife Lauren released a new book entitled You Can Be a Friend. Their story teaches children what it means to be a good friend. On January 22, 2019, Dungy released a new book entitled The Soul of a Team. The book was co-written with Nathan Whitaker and their story illustrates what separates the truly great teams from the mediocre ones. "Simply put, a team that has SOUL can and will accomplish far more than one that doesn’t.” Dungy writes.
Tony Dungy has taught us all that success does come to those who work hard, have a passion for God, and who stay committed to these principles. He has brought so much leadership, faith, common sense, and integrity to so many people, throughout his life, that it is hard to find a better example of what Jesus taught us nor what God wants for all of us.
Thank you and a very Happy Birthday Anthony Kevin Dungy – you are truly a man among men and a true warrior for God!!!