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Dungy, Tony

Tony Dungy

1955–

Football coach

Individuals who coach professional sports teams for a living are a unique breed. Their personalities must be fiery enough to contend with the antics of the most pampered athletes. At the same time, they must be modest enough to credibly project the belief that it is the players, not the coaches, who are responsible for the outcomes of games. Pro football head coach Tony Dungy manages to belie both of those characterizations. Those with whom he has worked are unanimous in describing Dungy as the least excitable person ever to prowl a football sideline. And while he is the picture of humility, he is almost universally hailed as a coaching genius, capable of virtually single-handedly turning a football program around, transforming pathetic defenses into great ones, and changing losing organizations into winners. He proved that in 2007 when he led the Indianapolis Colts to their first Super Bowl since 1984 and became the first African-American coach ever to win the championship.

Fascinated by Football

Dungy was born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Michigan. Unlike many of his jock peers, Dungy grew up in a family that valued intellectual accomplishments as much as athletic ones. His father, Wilbur, is a retired physiology professor. His mother, Cleomae, was a high school English teacher for many years. Dungy's siblings include a sister who is an obstetrician, another who is a nurse, and a dentist brother. Even in a household where the focus was on academics, however, Dungy was drawn to football at an early age. Wilbur Dungy, when interviewed for a 1996 USA Today article, recalled that as a graduate student at Michigan State University, he would watch Detroit Lions football games with the six-year-old Tony. While the elder Dungy concentrated on his studies, "Tony would fill me in, telling me who handled the ball on every play and what happened."

Dungy starred as a basketball guard and an option quarterback in football at Jackson's Parkside High School. It was his football exploits that captured the attention of University of Minnesota head coach Cal Stoll. By the end of his freshman year at Minnesota, Dungy had cracked the starting lineup. It quickly became clear that Dungy's approach to the game was a cerebral one. While his teammates hit the bars and engaged in other standard collegiate pursuits, Dungy spent his spare time watching game films and analyzing his opponents. As star quarterback for the Golden Gophers from 1973 to 1976, Dungy finished his college career ranked fourth in total offense among all players in the history of the Big Ten conference.

In spite of his accomplishments at Minnesota, Dungy's small stature and questionable throwing arm put off many pro scouts, and he was passed over in the NFL draft. He signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where coach Chuck Noll quickly converted him into a defensive back. Although he lacked the size, power, and speed of other players at his position, Dungy made the team on the strength of his astute understanding of the defense the Steelers were running, and his ability to anticipate the moves of opposing receivers based on long hours of study and analysis.

Dungy soon came to play a key role as a reserve on Pittsburgh's famous "Steel Curtain" defense. In one 1977 game, he performed a rare feat by both making and throwing interceptions in the same game. In 1978, his second season with the Steelers, Dungy led the team with six interceptions—good for second in the AFC—and helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship. Eventually, however, it became clear that no amount of football smarts could make up for his lack of NFL-caliber speed. The Steelers traded Dungy to the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, and after a year there he was shipped to the New York Giants. The Giants cut Dungy toward the end of the 1980 preseason. Seeing that he had no future as an active player, Dungy retired, with a career total of nine interceptions over three seasons.

Excelled as a Coach

Although Dungy was less than memorable as a player at the professional level, his understanding of the game apparently left a mark on some of the coaches with whom he had worked. Shortly after the end of his playing career, Dungy was invited by Stoll, his coach at the University of Minnesota, to return to his alma mater in the capacity of assistant coach in charge of defensive backs. The following year, Pittsburgh head coach Noll offered Dungy an assistant coaching spot with the Steelers. Dungy accepted the offer, and in 1981, at the age of 25—younger than many of the players on the team—he began his NFL coaching career.

Dungy quickly began to rise through the ranks in the Steeler organization. By 1982 he was named defensive backfield coach. Two years later Dungy became the first African American to be named defensive coordinator of an NFL team. He served as the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1984 to 1988. During that time, Dungy-led defenses became known for over-achieving, particularly in the area of causing turnovers. Dungy's name began to surface in conversations about who would become the NFL's first black head coach. In spite of his success as an assistant, however, Dungy was interviewed for only a handful of head coaching positions during this period. Many insiders attributed this lack of interest on the part of owners to Dungy's famously calm demeanor, which was considered unsuited to the position of head coach, a job more often associated with those like the fiery Vince Lombardi. Others suspected racism.

In 1989 Dungy left Pittsburgh to take over as defensive backs coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, where three of the players under his authority were named to the Pro Bowl. He remained there until 1992, when he was named defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. At Minnesota, Dungy led the NFL's top-rated defense team. Still, his desire to break into the head coaching ranks went unfulfilled, even as three other African Americans—Art Shell, Dennis Green, and Ray Rhodes—reached that goal ahead of him. Dungy stayed at Minnesota through the 1995 season.

At a Glance …

Born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, MI; son of Wilbur (a physiology professor) and Cleomae (an English teacher) Dungy; married Lauren Harris, c. 1982; children: Tiara, James (died 2005), and Eric. Education: University of Minnesota, BA, 1977.

Career: Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive back, 1977–78, defensive assistant, 1981, defensive backs coach, 1982–83, defensive coordinator, 1984–88; San Francisco 49ers, defensive back, 1979; University of Minnesota, defensive backs coach, 1980; Kansas City Chiefs, defensive backs coach, 1989–91; Minnesota Vikings, defensive coordinator, 1992–95; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach, 1996–2001; Indianapolis Colts, head coach, 2002–.

Memberships: American Diabetes Association, African American Program and School Walk for Diabetes campaign, national spokesperson, 2003; All Pro Dad; Abe Brown Ministries.

Awards: Member of 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers; National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood Award, 2002; coach of 2007 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts.

Addresses: Office—Indianapolis Colts, 7001 West 56th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46254.

Landed Head Coach Position

The long-awaited call finally came in 1996, when Dungy was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the least successful team in the history of the league. At Tampa Bay, Dungy, still fairly young for a head coach at 41, was faced with the task of turning around a team that had not enjoyed a winning season since the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. Dungy's start at Tampa Bay was not auspicious. The team lost its first five games of the 1996 season, and fans sensed yet another last place finish in the making. At midseason, however, things began to change. As Dungy's system began to sink in, the Buccaneers suddenly started showing signs of life. The team ended up winning five of its last seven games, including five straight on its home field, a first for the Tampa Bay franchise. At the end of the season, the team found itself somewhere other than last place for the first time since 1992.

Hopes were high in Tampa Bay as the 1997 season approached. Under Dungy's leadership, the team picked up where it had left off at the end of the previous season, winning its first five games. In spite of a midseason slump, Dungy was able to guide the Buccaneers to a second-place finish in the tough NFC Central Division, good enough for a playoff berth. The team won its wild-card game against the Detroit Lions. As Tampa Bay fans braced for their team's match up against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, spirits were soaring. Very few of those fans doubted that in Dungy they had finally found somebody capable of peeling the "perennial doormat" label off of their beloved team. Unfortunately they lost the game against Green Bay.

Dungy's calm coaching style earned him the respect and dedication of his players and coaching staff alike. "You don't want to let Tony down," Buccaneers defensive end Marcus Jones told Insight on the News. "He gives us enough space to where we can be our own people. At the same time, he's a no-nonsense guy." Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin concurred, commenting to Insight on the News, "You don't feel pressure coaching for him. You can just be yourself instead of wondering, 'What if I do something wrong and upset the coach?'" Dungy credited his calm to his Christian faith, for part of the faith is, as he told the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "realizing that there are things you might not ever understand and a lot of things you won't be able to control, so worrying about those things and getting frustrated is not fruitful." He also draws upon his experience as a former player, trying to treat team members as he would like a coach to treat him.

Dungy spent five years with Tampa Bay, taking the Buccaneers to the playoffs three times and winning a division title in 1999. Dungy was the winningest coach in the team's history, but as the 2001 season opened with disappointing results, he came under pressure from team owners. With his job at stake, Dungy remained unflappable, telling the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "Every week you have to go out and get the job done. That's what you're judged on."

The pressure was on, but Dungy was not about to change his coaching strategy. "People always want to know, 'What are you going to do to get to the next level? You've got to do something dramatic,'" Dungy told Insight on the News. "We want to be at the next level, but we believe that what will get us there is doing everything a little bit better, not making dramatic changes." In the previous season, the team had performed inconsistently, alternating between good and poor offense and winning three straight games, only to lose four in a row. This is what Dungy planned to work on in the 2001 season, as opposed to making sweeping changes. "He's so steady, so consistent," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen told Insight on the News. "I've even looked to see if maybe there's some nervousness in having to change the quarterback position … or others here and there, but it doesn't faze him. He just keeps on trucking."

In the end, composed perseverance was not enough to save Dungy's job. The season closed with a 31-9 playoff loss to Philadelphia; two days later, he was fired. His farewell remarks, quoted by the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, were optimistic: "We did the best we could. It wasn't quite good enough, but we're going to go out very proud of what we did."

Career Transition

Dungy began exploring his options, seriously considering a new career in prison ministry. "It's something I've always wanted to do, and I thought maybe the time had come to try it." he told Sports Illustrated, adding: "I wasn't sure I still wanted to be a coach in the NFL." But when Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian offered Dungy a coaching position, he accepted. The team, which had had difficulty enacting the complicated strategies of their previous coach, was glad to have Dungy. Defensive tackle Ellis Johnson told Sports Illustrated, "I've studied film of Tampa's defense for a long time, just because it's such a beautiful thing to watch. Having it here, well, it's been like night and day." Dungy brought his defensive expertise to the Colts. Although the team's defensive line struggled to adjust at first, they eventually mastered Dungy's plan. He went on to lead the Colts for four playoff appearances and three division south titles.

Dungy offered the team more than his technical expertise, however. He had a strength of will and a sense of composure that also inspired. The amazing depth of these character traits were highlighted when Dungy experienced a personal tragedy in December 2005. At the time, the Colts were Super Bowl favorites, but news of Dungy's son's apparent suicide that month changed the tenor of the team. Although they ultimately lost in the playoffs that year, the tragedy "unified" the team, observed Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times. They went into the next season united and speaking openly about their faith. Brewer noted that "Dungy handled his despair in a way that will forever be admired. He spoke of his faith, of his Christian beliefs, and how it would carry him through. Even if you didn't agree with his religion, you were impressed with how strong and stately he appeared in public." His strength inspired his players and fueled wins the next season.

The Colts started the 2006 season strong, with nine consecutive wins, but close the regular season with four losses in their next six games. Gaining steam through the playoffs, the Colts earned dramatic comeback win over the New England Patriots—in which they scored the winning touchdown in the game's last minute and intercepted a pass on the Patriots' last drive attempt—to capture the AFC Championship and win a trip to the Super Bowl. Dungy had led his team to its first Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis in 1984. What's more, Dungy would face his former assistant coach in Tampa Bay and now head coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith. But the issue that most captivated the press was the fact that Dungy and Smith were the first two African-American head coaches to reach the championship round.

Led Team to Historic Super Bowl

The game was touted as historic. It "belongs on the same page in sports history as Joe Louis getting to fight Max Schmeling, as Jesse Owens forcing [Adolf] Hitler out of that reviewing stand at the '36 Olympics, as the first pitch to Jackie Robinson," Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow told the Washington Post. While both Dungy and Smith reveled in their thrill at leading their teams to the Super Bowl, Dungy downplayed the importance of race. "I'm very, very proud. And as an African American, its going to be special," Dungy told Melissa Block of All Things Considered. "But I want to really just let us savor this and make this about the Colts and our organization tonight."

Dungy's insistence on emphasizing that his rise to the Super Bowl was a team effort reinforced a theme that emerged as the media publications cranked out story after story about the two black coaches competing against each other in the Super Bowl. More than the difference in the color of their skin, what differentiated Dungy and Smith from most other NFL coaches was their style: they were nice. "There will probably always be a place for eye-bulging, spittle-spewing coaches. Some will hang on to the belief that motivation can be a finger in the chest or a rant in the ear hole. But Dungy and Smith, in their own whisper-quiet way, are showing that the new key to winning might be something entirely different," wrote New York Times contributor John Branch. And Dungy, who gave Smith his first NFL coaching job, got the credit for casting the new mold. "He's been a coach who's tried to break the mold of the tradition of coaches that try to be fire and brimstone, intense, wanting to curse and intimidate players," Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn told Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times. "He's more of a coach who leads by example and treats us all like men." Brewer added praise for what he called "The Dungy Way," saying "It is one of football's quiet joys." Dungy and Smith proved this in the days before the Super Bowl when they posed with the trophy at a press conference and hugged in front of reporters. When reporters pointed out the anomaly of their actions, Smith remarked: "This is my first time here, so I didn't realize this was a first time that two opposing coaches have taken a picture with the Lombardi Trophy. This is a different week. Of course, we have two black head coaches leading our teams. We're doing things a little bit differently. I think you can respect an opponent and have a relationship with them before and after the game. So that's how we're doing it," Smith told the Washington Post.

The Super Bowl match up was thrilling. Played through a heavy downpour, the Colts were caught flat-footed at the opening kickoff when Bears rookie Devin Hester ran 92 yards for a touchdown. The rain made the game difficult, according to Colts linebacker Gary Brackett. "The ball was very messy, hard to control…. I'm just glad we were able to come up with the turnovers and put our offense in scoring position," he told the Washington Post. Through it all Dungy helped his team maintain composure and the Colts emerged champions with a 29-17 win. The Dungy Way had prevailed. Dungy even dropped down from riding high on his team's shoulders during the after game celebration to embrace Smith on the sidelines.

Maintained "The Dungy Way"

Dungy handled the media's quest to document the historic occasion in characteristically low-key way. "Being the first African-American coach to win it, I have to dedicate to some guys before me—great coaches I know could have done this if they had gotten the opportunity. Lovie and I were able to take advantage of it. We certainly weren't the most qualified," Dungy said, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. Dungy later remarked that he had been asked to compare himself to Jackie Robinson, American baseball's first black player, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. "I certainly don't think I've done anything as difficult as what Jackie Robinson did, or anything that would even be in that light," Dungy said, "but it's a very, very proud moment. I really feel there were so many guys that could have done this if given the opportunity. I feel honored to be the first one to carry that mantle forward."

Dungy's next year seemed set, as he told the Washington Post that he looked "forward to helping these guys defend the title." Dungy admitted, however, that football was not all he had planned for his life. "I won't be coaching when I'm 60," Dungy told Sports Illustrated. "When I was with the Steelers, Chuck Noll told us, 'Football is not your life's work. It's just a station in life.' I still have a burning passion to coach football. But there will come a day when I will walk away to pursue other things." Until that time, the NFL will benefit from Dungy's leadership.

Sources

Periodicals

Chicago Citizen, January 24, 2007, p. 1.

Ebony, September 1997.

Insight on the News, October 1, 2001.

Jet, December 22, 1997.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 4, 2001; October 26, 2001; January 15, 2002.

Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1996; January 23, 2007, p. D7.

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), February 6, 2006, p. C1.

New York Times, January 23, 2007, p. D3; February 2, 2007, p. D1.

PR Newswire, June 11, 2002; August 15, 2003.

Seattle Times, February 1, 2007, p. D1; February 3, 2007, p. D1.

Sport, February 1986.

Sporting News, June 17, 1996.

Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1996; September 2, 2002; February 12, 2007, p. 47.

Sports Spectrum, January 1997.

Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA), February 5, 2007, p. D1.

USA Today, March 7, 1996; August 15, 1997.

Washington Post, August 2, 1997; February 3, 2007, p. E1; February 4, 2007, p. A1; February 5, 2007, p. A1; February 6, 2007, p. E1.

Wisconsin State Journal, December 4, 1997.

Other

"An NFL Mark: Two Black Coaches in Super Bowl," All Things Considered, National Public Radio, January 22, 2007.

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Dungy, Tony 1955–

Tony Dungy 1955

Football coach

Excelled as Gophers QB

Assisted Stoll, Then Noll

Piloted Bucs Turnaround

Pressured to Improve Team in 2001

Sources

Individuals who coach professional sports teams for a living are a unique breed. Their personalities must be fiery enough to contend with the antics of the most pampered athletes. At the same time, they must be modest enough to credibly project the belief that it is the players, not the coaches, who are responsible for the outcomes of games. Pro football head coach Tony Dungy manages to belie both of those characterizations. Those with whom he has worked are unanimous in describing Dungy as the least excitable person ever to prowl a football sideline. And while he is the picture of humility, he is almost universally hailed as a coaching genius, capable of virtually single-handedly turning a football program around, transforming pathetic defenses into great ones, and changing losing organizations into winners.

Dungy was born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Michigan. Unlike many of his jock peers, Dungy grew up in a family that valued intellectual accomplishments as much as athletic ones. His father, Wilbur, is a retired physiology professor. His mother, Cleomae, was a high school English teacher for many years. Dungys siblings include a sister who is an obstetrician, another who is a nurse, and a dentist brother. Even in a household where the focus was on academics, however, Dungy was drawn to football at an early age. Wilbur Dungy, when interviewed for a 1996 USA Today article, recalled that as a graduate student at Michigan State University, he would watch Detroit Lions football games with the six-year-old Tony. While the elder Dungy concentrated on his studies, Tony would fill me in, telling me who handled the ball on every play and what happened.

Excelled as Gophers QB

Dungy starred as a basketball guard and an option quarterback in football at Jacksons Parkside High School. It was his football exploits that captured the attention of University of Minnesota head coach Cal Stoll. By the end of his freshman year at Minnesota, Dungy had cracked the starting lineup. It quickly became clear that Dungys approach to the game was a cerebral one. While his teammates hit the bars and engaged in other standard collegiate pursuits, Dungy spent his spare time watching game films and analyzing his opponents. As star quarterback for the Golden Gophers from 1973 to 1976, Dungy finished his

At a Glance

Born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Ml; son of Wilbur (a physiology professor) and Cleomae (an English teacher) Dungy; married Lauren Harris, c. 1982; children: Tiara, James, and Eric. Education: University of Minnesota, BA, 1977.

Career: Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive back, 1977-78, defensive assistant, 1981, defensive backs coach, 1982-83, defensive coordinator, 1984-88; San Francisco 49ers, defensive back, 1979; University of Minnesota, defensive backs coach, 1980; Kansas City Chiefs, defensive backs coach, 1989-91; Minnesota Vikings, defensive coordinator, 1992-95; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach, 1996-2001; Indianapolis Colts, head coach, 2002-.

Memberships: American Diabetes Association, African American Program and School Walk for Diabetes campaign, national spokesperson, 2003-.

Awards: Member of 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers; National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood Award, 2002.

Addresses: Office Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts, P.O. Box 535000, Indianapolis, IN 46253. Phone: (317)297-2658.

college career ranked fourth in total offense among all players in the history of the Big Ten conference.

In spite of his accomplishments at Minnesota, Dungys small stature and questionable throwing arm put off many pro scouts, and he was passed over in the NFL draft. He signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where coach Chuck Noll quickly converted him into a defensive back. Although he lacked the size, power, and speed of other players at his position, Dungy made the team on the strength of his astute understanding of the defense the Steelers were running, and his ability to anticipate the moves of opposing receivers based on long hours of study and analysis.

Dungy soon came to play a key role as a reserve on Pittsburghs famous Steel Curtain defense. In one 1977 game, he performed a rare feat by both making and throwing interceptions in the same game. In 1978, his second season with the Steelers, Dungy led the team with six interceptionsgood for second in the AFCand helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship. Eventually, however, it became clear that no amount of football smarts could make up for his lack of NFL-caliber speed. The Steelers traded Dungy to the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, and after a year there he was shipped to the New York Giants. The Giants cut Dungy toward the end of the 1980 preseason. Seeing that he had no future as an active player, Dungy retired, with a career total of nine interceptions over three seasons.

Assisted Stoll, Then Noll

Although Dungy was less than memorable as a player at the professional level, his understanding of the game apparently left a mark on some of the coaches with whom he had worked. Shortly after the end of his playing career, Dungy was invited by Stoll, his coach at the University of Minnesota, to return to his alma mater in the capacity of assistant coach in charge of defensive backs. The following year, Pittsburgh head coach Noll offered Dungy an assistant coaching spot with the Steelers. Dungy accepted the offer, and in 1981, at the age of 25younger than many of the players on the teamhe began his NFL coaching career.

Dungy quickly began to rise through the ranks in the Steeler organization. By 1982 he was named defensive backfield coach. Two years later Dungy became the first African American to be named defensive coordinator of an NFL team. He served as the Steelers defensive coordinator from 1984 to 1988. During that time, Dungy-led defenses became known for over-achieving, particularly in the area of causing turnovers. Dungys name began to surface in conversations about who would become the NFLs first black head coach. In spite of his success as an assistant, however, Dungy was interviewed for only a handful of head coaching positions during this period. Many insiders attributed this lack of interest on the part of owners to Dungys famously calm demeanor, which was considered un-suited to the position of head coach, a job more often associated with those like the fiery Vince Lombardi. Others suspected racism.

In 1989 Dungy left Pittsburgh to take over as defensive backs coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, where three of the players under his authority were named to the Pro Bowl. He remained there until 1992, when he was named defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. At Minnesota, Dungy led the NFLs top-rated defense team. Still, his desire to break into the head coaching ranks went unfulfilled, even as three other African AmericansArt Shell, Dennis Green, and Ray Rhodesreached that goal ahead of him. Dungy stayed at Minnesota through the 1995 season.

Piloted Bucs Turnaround

The long-awaited call finally came in 1996, when Dungy was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the least successful team in the history of the league. At Tampa Bay, Dungy, still fairly young for a head coach at 41, was faced with the task of turning around a team that had not enjoyed a winning season since the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. Dungys start at Tampa Bay was not auspicious. The team lost its first five games of the 1996 season, and fans sensed yet another last place finish in the making. At midsea-son, however, things began to change. As Dungys system began to sink in, the Buccaneers suddenly started showing signs of life. The team ended up winning five of its last seven games, including five straight on its home field, a first for the Tampa Bay franchise. At the end of the season, the team found itself somewhere other than last place for the first time since 1992.

Hopes were high in Tampa Bay as the 1997 season approached. Under Dungys leadership, the team picked up where it had left off at the end of the previous season, winning its first five games. In spite of a midseason slump, Dungy was able to guide the Buccaneers to a second-place finish in the tough NFC Central Division, good enough for a playoff berth. The team won its wild-card game against the Detroit Lions. As Tampa Bay fans braced for their teams match up against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, spirits were soaring. Very few of those fans doubted that in Dungy they had finally found somebody capable of peeling the perennial doormat label off of their beloved team. Unfortunately they lost the game against Green Bay.

Dungys calm coaching style has earned him the respect and dedication of his players and coaching staff alike. You dont want to let Tony down, Buccaneers defensive end Marcus Jones told Insight on the News. He gives us enough space to where we can be our own people. At the same time, hes a no-nonsense guy. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin concurred, commenting to Insight on the News, You dont feel pressure coaching for him. You can just be yourself instead of wondering, What if I do something wrong and upset the coach? Dungy credited his calm to his Christian faith, for part of the faith is, as he told the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, realizing that there are things you might not ever understand and a lot of things you wont be able to control, so worrying about those things and getting frustrated is not fruitful. He also draws upon his experience as a former player, trying to treat team members as he would like a coach to treat him.

Pressured to Improve Team in 2001

Dungy spent five years with Tampa Bay, taking the Buccaneers to the playoffs three times and winning a division title in 1999. Dungy was the winningest coach in the teams history, but as the 2001 season opened with disappointing results, he came under pressure from team owners. With his job at stake, Dungy remained unflappable, telling the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, Every week you have to go out and get the job done. Thats what youre judged on.

The pressure was on, but Dungy was not about to change his coaching strategy. People always want to know, What are you going to do to get to the next level? Youve got to do something dramatic, Dungy told Insight on the News. We want to be at the next level, but we believe that what will get us there is doing everything a little bit better, not making dramatic changes. In the previous season, the team had performed inconsistently, alternating between good and poor offense and winning three straight games, only to lose four in a row. This is what Dungy planned to work on in the 2001 season, as opposed to making sweeping changes. Hes so steady, so consistent, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen told Insight on the News. Ive even looked to see if maybe theres some nervousness in having to change the quarterback position or others here and there, but it doesnt faze him. He just keeps on trucking.

In the end, composed perseverance was not enough to save Dungys job. The season closed with a 31-9 playoff loss to Philadelphia, and two days later, he was fired. His farewell remarks, quoted by the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, were optimistic: We did the best we could. It wasnt quite good enough, but were going to go out very proud of what we did.

Dungy began exploring his options, seriously considering a new career in prison ministry. Its something Ive always wanted to do, and I thought maybe the time had come to try it. he told Sports Illustrated. I wasnt sure I still wanted to be a coach in the NFL. But when Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian offered Dungy a coaching position, he accepted. The team, which had had difficulty enacting the complicated strategies of their previous coach, were glad to have Dungy. Defensive tackle Ellis Johnson told Sports Illustrated, Ive studied film of Tampas defense for a long time, just because its such a beautiful thing to watch. Having it here, well, its been like night and day.

Sources

Ebony, September 1997.

Insight on the News, October 1, 2001.

Jet, December 22, 1997.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 4, 2001; October 26, 2001; January 15, 2002.

Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1996.

PR Newswire, June 11, 2002; August 15, 2003.

Sport, February 1986.

Sporting News, June 17, 1996.

Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1996; September 2, 2002.

Sports Spectrum, January 1997.

USA Today, March 7, 1996; August 15, 1997.

Washington Post, August 2, 1997.

Wisconsin State Journal, December 4, 1997.

Robert R. Jacobson and Jennifer M. York

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"Dungy, Tony 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dungy, Tony 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dungy-tony-1955-0

"Dungy, Tony 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dungy-tony-1955-0

Dungy, Tony 1955–

Tony Dungy 1955

Football coach

Excelled as Gophers QB

Assisted Stoll, Then Noll

Piloted Bues Turnaround

Sources

Individuals who coach professional sports teams for a living are a unique breed. Their personalities must be fiery enough to contend with the antics of the most pampered athletes. At the same time, they must be modest enough to credibly project the belief that it is the players, not the coaches, who are responsible for the outcomes of games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy manages to belie both of those characterizations. Those with whom he has worked are unanimous in describing Dungy as the least excitable person ever to prowl a football sideline. And while he is the picture of humility, he is almost universally hailed as a coaching genius, capable of virtually single-handedly turning a football program around, transforming pathetic defenses into great ones, and changing losing organizations into winners.

Dungy was born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Michigan. Unlike many of his jock peers, Dungy grew up in a family that valued intellectual accomplishments as much as athletic ones. His father, Wilbur, is a retired physiology professor. His mother, Cleomae, was a high school English teacher for many years. Dungys siblings include a sister who is an obstetrician, another who is a nurse, and a dentist brother. Even in a household where the focus was on academics, however, Dungy was drawn to football at an early age. Wilbur Dungy, when interviewed for a 1996 USA Today article, recalled that as a graduate student at Michigan State University, he would watch Detroit Lions football games with the six-year-old Tony. While the elder Dungy concentrated on his studies, Tony would fill me in, telling me who handled the ball on every play and what happened, he was quoted as saying.

Excelled as Gophers QB

Dungy starred as a basketball guard and an option quarterback in football at Jacksons Parkside High School. It was his football exploits that captured the attention of University of Minnesota head coach Cal Stoll. By the end of his freshman year at Minnesota, Dungy had cracked the starting lineup. It quickly became clear that Dungys approach to the game was a cerebral one. While his teammates hit the bars and engaged in other standard collegiate pursuits, Dungy spent his spare time watching game films and analyzing

At a Glance

Born October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Ml; son of Wilbur (a physiology professor) and Cleomae (an English teacher) Dungy; married Lauren Harris, c. 1982; children: Tiara, James, and Eric; Education: University of Minnesota, BA, 1977; Religion: Christian.

Career: University of Minnesota, quarterback, 1973-76, defensive backs coach, 1980; Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive back, 1977-78, defensive assistant, 1981, defensive backs coach, 1982-83, defensive coorrdina-tor, 1984-88; San Francisco 49ers, defensive back, 1979; Kansas City Chiefs, defensive backs coach, 1989-91; Minnesota Vikings, defensive coordinator, 1992-95; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach, 1996-.

Awards: Member of 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Addresses: Home Tampa, FL; Office Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Stadium, Tampa, FL 33607.

his opponents. As star quarterback for the Golden Gophers from 1973to 1976, Dungy finished his college career ranked fourth in total offense among all players in the history of the Big Ten conference.

In spite of his accomplishments at Minnesota, Dungys small stature and questionable throwing arm put off many pro scouts, and he was passed over in the NFL draft. He signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where coach Chuck Noll quickly converted him into a defensive back. Although he lacked the size, power, and speed of other players at his position, Dungy made the team on the strength of his astute understanding of the defense the Steelers were running, and his ability to anticipate the moves of opposing receivers based on long hours of study and analysis.

Dungy soon came to play a key role as a reserve on Pittsburghs famous Steel Curtain defense. In one 1977 game, he performed a rare feat by both making and throwing interceptions in the same game. In 1978, his second season with the Steelers, Dungy led the team with six interceptionsgood for second in the AFCand helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship. Eventually, however, it became clear that no amount of football smarts could make up for his lack of NFL-caliber speed. The Steelers traded Dungy to the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, and after a year there he was shipped to the New York Giants. The Giants cut Dungy toward the end of the 1980 preseason. Seeing that he had no future as an active player, Dungy retired, with a career total of nine interceptions over three seasons.

Assisted Stoll, Then Noll

Although Dungy was less than memorable as a player at the professional level, his understanding of the game apparently left a mark on some of the coaches with whom he had worked. Shortly after the end of his playing career, Dungy was invited by Stoll, his coach at the University of Minnesota, to return to his alma mater in the capacity of assistant coach in charge of defensive backs. The following year, Pittsburgh head coach Noll offered Dungy an assistant coaching spot with the Steelers. Dungy accepted the offer, and in 1981, at the age of 25younger than many of the players on the teamhe began his NFL coaching career.

Dungy quickly began to rise through the ranks in the Steeler organization. By 1982 he was named defensive backfield coach. Two years later Dungy became the first African American to be named defensive coordinator of an NFL team. He served as the Steelers defensive coordinator from 1984 to 1988. During that time, Dungy-led defenses became known for overachieving, particularly in the area of causing turnovers. Dungys name began to surface in conversations about who would become the NFLs first black head coach. In spite of his success as an assistant, however, Dungy was interviewed for only a handful of head coaching positions during this period. Many insiders attributed this lack of interest on the part of owners to Dungys famously calm demeanor, which was considered unsuited to the position of head coach, a job more often associated with those like the fiery Vince Lombardi. Others suspected racism.

In 1989 Dungy left Pittsburgh to take over as defensive backs coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, where three of the players under his authority were named to the Pro Bowl. He remained there until 1992, when he was named defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. At Minnesota, Dungy led the NFLs top-rated defense. Still, his desire to break into the head coaching ranks went unfulfilled, even as three other African AmericansArt Shell, Dennis Green, and Ray Rhodesreached that goal ahead of him. Dungy stayed at Minnesota through the 1995 season.

Piloted Bues Turnaround

The long-awaited call finally came in 1996, when Dungy was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the least successful team in the history of the league. At Tampa Bay, Dungy, still fairly young for a head coach at 41, was faced with the task of turning around a team that had not enjoyed a winning season since the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. Dungys start at Tampa Bay was not auspicious. The team lost its first five games of the 1996 season, and fans sensed yet another last place finish in the making. At midseason, however, things began to change. As Dungys system began to sink in, the Buccaneers suddenly started showing signs of life. The team ended up winning five of its last seven games, including five straight on its home field, a first for the Tampa Bay franchise. At the end of the season, the team found itself somewhere other than last place for the first time since 1992.

Hopes were high in Tampa Bay as the 1997 season approached. Under Dungys leadership, the team picked up where it had left off at the end of the previous season, winning its first five games. In spite of a midseason slump, Dungy was able to guide the Buccaneers to a second-place finish in the tough NFC Central Division, good enough for a playoff berth. The team won its wildcard game against the Detroit Lions. As Tampa Bay fans braced for their teams match up against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, spirits were soaring. Very few of those fans doubted that in Dungy they had finally found somebody capable of peeling the perennial doormat label off of their beloved team. Unfortunately they lost the game again Green Bay.

Sources

Ebony, September 1997.

Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1996.

Sport, February 1986.

Sporting News, June 17, 1996.

Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1996.

Sports Spectrum, January 1997.

USA Today, March 7, 1996; August 15, 1997.

Washington Post, August 2, 1997.

Wisconsin State Journal, December 4, 1997.

Robert R. Jacobson

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