Friday, January 16, 2009

I Will Miss Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy retired on Monday, ending his wonderful 13-year head coaching tenure - seven with the Indianapolis Colts and six with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was sad to see him go, and I will miss seeing him as the leader of my favorite NFL team. But mostly, I'll miss him as a Christian role model in a sport where faith and love are too often forgotten.

I actually got to meet (for 20 seconds or so) Coach Dungy back in 2003. I was a senior in high school on an unofficial visit to IU. The coaching staff treated all of the recruits and their families to a basketball game against Michigan State. Before the game I noticed Coach Dungy sitting in the second or third row courtside. My parents and I went down to shake his hand, and he was kind enough to allow me to take a picture with him.

I'll never forget it. He was wearing a Coogi sweater, which was mixed with different shades of orange, red, blue and some other colors. I laughed to myself because here was this great coach whom I admired for so many reasons, and he was wearing one of the worst sweaters I've ever seen. I guess he can't be perfect.

While I wanted Coach Dungy to stay with the Colts for my own selfish reasons, I always did believe that leaving the game to be with his family would be the best move for him. He's always had his priorities straight - faith, family and then football. That's the way it should be for everyone, whether they're in the football world or not.

He and his wife, Lauren, have spent the last five years discussing when he should leave coaching. I must admit that I didn't think he was coming back last year, but I was thankful he did. Coach Dungy now plans to go home to his family and work in the community.

Coach Dungy's impact around the league has been amazing. He's opened the door for so many other black coaches and has cast his "disciples" on to so many teams. The league is a better place because of him. Character is becoming the most important factor over talent. Things should always be that way.

I've learned a lot just by watching Coach Dungy as a fan. To me, he's a person I will always think of when I need an example of how to live my own life.

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