Tony Dungy in 2016 made history as the first Black coach to be elected to the National Football League Hall of Fame.
Dungy’s coaching career began in 1980 with the University of Minnesota. He would go on to be drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers, making him, the youngest assistant coach in NFL history at the age of 25.
Dungy would be made the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL by Steelers in 1984.
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In 1996, Dungy landed his first head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – perennial last-place franchise wobbling through 13 consecutive losing seasons before the young coach’s arrival.
Described as soft-spoken, in a chat with the Associated Press, Dungy recalled walking into his office after a third consecutive loss by six or fewer points on the road and learning one player failed to show up for an off-day appearance at an elementary school. Another was 45 minutes late for an autograph session at a car dealership.
“We go into our nine o’clock meeting, supposedly to introduce the game plan on the Raiders. I said: ‘Let me just show you something,’ and put the two notes on the overhead projector. This is what we’re dealing with,” Dungy said.
“‘You want to know why we aren’t winning. This is why we aren’t winning.’ I said, we can give you game plans, we can do tackling drills, we can do all that, it’s not going to change until you guys get this figured out, and I don’t know how to do that because I’ve been doing it for three months,” he added. “I left, let the players talk about it. We ended up beating the Raiders in overtime.”
Dungy’s smooth temperament and perseverance in guiding his players to do things right way, according to the Associated Press did not help him survive his only losing season to lead Tampa Bay to four playoff berths in six seasons.
Born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Michigan, Dungy a son of educators in 1973, enrolled at the University of Minnesota on a full football scholarship and took the helm as the team’s starting quarterback.
Over his four-year career with the Gophers, Dungy put up an array of impressive numbers, finishing as the program’s career leader in pass attempts, completions, touchdown passing and passing yards, reported Biography.com.
Following his failure in the 1977 NFL draft, Dungy would find succor with the Pittsburg Steelers, playing for legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll, and won the Super Bowl with the franchise in the 1978 season.
Dungy was traded the following year and after three in the NFL called it a quit.
Fired by the Buccaneers as their head coach after the 2001 season, Dungy in January 2002, was hired by the Indianapolis Colts as their new head coach.
Dungy turned the franchise into a perennial Super Bowl contender, winning the Super Bowl on February 4, 2007, when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17, in Miami.
The victory made Dungy the first African American to coach a Super Bowl-winning club. It also made him just the third person in NFL history to win a title as a player and as a head coach, according to Biography.com.
“I was very, very happy with my career and the things that I’d been able to do: run into a lot of people, made a lot of great friends,” he told CBN. “And to see those friends kind of pour out that emotion, it made you feel like the Lord’s favor had been on your career.”
For him one should never be defined by “what you do, by the things you have; you’ve got to define yourself by who you are and who you impact and how you impact people.”
“And that’s the thing I try to get across to my players. And if I was remembered for anything, I’d like it to be that – as this guy who helped young men get better off the field, really helped young guys grow into men. Probably my favorite thing would be to see a young man, 21 or 22, come into our organization, get drafted, and see him that first day; and then watch him develop as a player, a person, grow into a leader, and then see someone, you know years later, as kind of a finished product.”