View Full Version : Great Story about Tony Dungy on ESPN.com

06-16-2006, 06:48 AM

Great read. Got me a little choked up!

By Michael Smith | ESPN.comSend | PrintINDIANAPOLIS -- Once he's gotten off the phone with his friends for the night, it's not unusual for Eric Dungy to chat with his dad. The father-son moments allow Tony Dungy to ask, you know, how things are going, which young lady Eric is going with, those sort of things. Dad wants to see if there's anything on Eric's mind and if there's any fatherly advice he can offer.

As coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy makes his living making adjustments. Some are subtle. Parenting and coaching are a lot alike in that way. As he and his family cope with the toughest loss of their lives, that of their son and brother, James, Tony Dungy is taking the necessary steps to see that it doesn't happen again. Those steps don't have to be huge. In this case, they amount to a simple stroll into the other room.

"Sometimes I don't want to listen but I know what he's trying to do," says Eric Dungy, 14. "He wants to have a relationship, he wants me to know I can talk to him when I need to."

"I probably think about my kids more," Tony Dungy says. "I worry about them more, especially with the letters I've gotten about what teens and young men are going through, the pressures on them."

And with good reason. In the early-morning hours of Dec. 22, 2005, Tony and Lauren Dungy lived a parent's worst nightmare when they learned their eldest son and second of five children, 18-year-old James, had been found dead in his suburban Tampa, Fla., apartment. In February, James' death was ruled a suicide.

"As a parent you'll never have any greater pain in your life," Colts president Bill Polian says. "Anyone who's a parent dreads that call in the middle of the night. I have four grown children and I still dread it."

When Dungy told Polian the news, "[I thought], 'Oh my God. Oh my God, what a tragedy.' I think that's what I said. … The hardest punch you've ever taken to the gut doesn't compare. It's something you never want to relive."

And yet Dungy is able to live with what other parents who have lost children often describe as an unbearable pain because of his faith. Great coaches have the ability to see the game differently. Great men are able to view life's unfortunate circumstances from a unique perspective. Dungy's doing that.

Tony Dungy recently sat down with ESPN for an exclusive, in-depth interview to discuss the aftermath of his son's death. The feature will air Sunday during SportsCenter.
Dungy, a devout Christian, believes no matter what happens that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. We're talking about a man who views it as a blessing that Pittsburgh moved him from quarterback to defensive back in the mid-1970s, because it was only then that he got to room with Donnie Shell, with whom Dungy would study the Bible as much as they did the Steelers' playbook. Dungy didn't fret when the Eagles (twice) and Packers passed on hiring him as their head coach or even when the Buccaneers fired him, instead holding firm to his faith that God was in charge and had a plan for his life and career.

Last season, when first-year Colts defensive tackle Corey Simon and his wife experienced a personal tragedy, Simon and Dungy had a talk in the head coach's office. Dungy has an open-door policy; his players feel like they're talking to their father rather than their coach. Dungy reminded Simon that God's will is perfect. When Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett lost his father, mother and brother over a 16-month period ending in February 2005, Dungy told Brackett that he was in a position to inspire others by holding his head high in the face of his adversity. Dungy put his arm around running back Warrick Dunn when they were together in Tampa Bay and Dunn was trying to cope with the death of his mother while also balancing a career and raising five siblings. Lauren Dungy often would accompany Dunn on parent-teacher conferences -- that's how extended the Dungy family is. We could go on for days with stories like this.

Says Dunn of his former coach, "He never gives you room to question his faith."

Dungy tried to offer encouragement to former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer three years ago after his 5-year-old son, Trevin, died of heart disease. Still, Dungy, though he's one to practice what he preaches, admittedly had his doubts about whether he'd even be able to handle the loss of a child.

"I said, 'Trent, we've been through a lot, been through ups and downs, tough times, and I think I could go through just about everything you've gone through, but I couldn't go through that,'" Dungy said.

Dungy said the same thing when he and Dilfer talked before the Colts and Dilfer's Browns met in Week 3 last season. On both occasions, Dilfer assured Dungy that he could and would endure, for their God would provide Dungy the strength necessary.

Dilfer has never been more on target. Since James' death, Tony Dungy has displayed nothing but his usual class, dignity, grace, and poise -- be it in eulogizing James at his Dec. 27 funeral, addressing the public immediately afterward and at speaking engagements, or just in how he handles himself day to day in those moments when few are watching.

"The day it happened," Eric recalls, "he was sad, but he wasn't a wreck or anything. He just kept his faith in God."

"The only word I can think of to describe it is 'extraordinary,'" Polian says.

But because so many (maybe millions) are watching, Dungy believes -- just as he told Brackett -- that God has placed him in this position not for him and his family to suffer but so they can be an example to others, a testimony.

"Our God is bigger than our pain," Dilfer says.

"The Lord has a plan. We always think the plans are A, B, C and D, and everything is going to be perfect for us and it may not be that way, but it's still his plan."
Tony DungyDungy saw the evidence of that the day after James' funeral, when a man approached Dungy to tell him that he'd heard him in the eulogy talk of men striving to be better fathers and role models and of parents not taking their children for granted. The man also said that he'd been inspired to take the day off from work and spend it with his son. Dungy's seen it in the thousands of letters his family has received, citing one in particular: A girl wrote to tell him that because of what she saw and heard during James' funeral at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa that she'd come to know God and had been baptized there.

Dungy could see God at work in the letter informing the family that two people can literally see now because they received James' donated corneas. In January, Dungy managed to pen an encouraging letter to Rhonda Brown, wife of former NFL defensive back Dave Brown, after her husband died at age 52 of a heart attack while playing basketball.

"I [wrote], 'I don't know exactly what you're feeling but I know that the Lord can get you through it.' That's the encouraging thing, that I can say to people now, that you'll make it," Dungy says.

Day by day, blessing by blessing, Dungy can make more sense of something that seemed so senseless just seven months ago. According to Lutz, Fla., police, James' girlfriend, Antoinette Anderson, said she'd discovered James' body and that the 6-foot-7 Dungy, who was attending Hillsborough Community College, had hanged himself from a ceiling fan using a leather belt. James would have turned 19 on Jan. 6.

Listening to Dungy put it into perspective, it's easy to understand how he's taken his many difficult professional losses in stride. The man is simply unwavering in his beliefs. He can be calm in even the worst storms. Nothing, it seems, can shake him from his foundation.

"The Lord has a plan," Dungy says. "We always think the plans are A, B, C and D, and everything is going to be perfect for us and it may not be that way, but it's still his plan. A lot of tremendous things are going to happen, it just may not be the way you see them.

"You may not win the Super Bowl. Your kids may not go on to be doctors and lawyers and everything may not go perfectly. That doesn't mean it was a bad plan or the wrong thing. It's just like a football season. Everything's not going to go perfect. You're going to have some losses that you're going to have to bounce back from and some things that are a little unforeseen that you're going to have to deal with. It's how you work your way through things."

Dungy's way of coping with James' death is to take something of a head coach approach and not spend too much time on the last play, if you will. He's focused on the larger picture and keeping his family together rather than trying to piece together the puzzling circumstances surrounding the death of his son, who Dungy says was the most "sensitive" of his children and who is described as a pleasant young man who seemed to love life. Among the many lessons Wilbur Dungy taught his son Tony was not to dwell on the past but to learn from the experience and focus on what he would do next. Wilbur Dungy taught Tony that life does indeed go on -- even after the death of a loved one. In fact, when Wilbur Dungy died June 9, 2004, from leukemia, Tony was at minicamp practice the next day because his father loved going to practice and that's what he'd have wanted Tony to do: to go on.

When James Dungy died, Polian told Tony to take all the time he needed, until March if necessary, to work from Tampa if he wanted. Polian insisted that the Colts would make it work whatever he decided. The week he took off -- and this is typical Tony -- Dungy was more concerned about how the team was handling everything than he was himself, assistant head coach Jim Caldwell says. Polian says when Dungy returned with Eric to the facility the Thursday before the final regular-season game, it brought a sense of normalcy to the organization. Dungy, who couldn't imagine how to deal with James' death without the grind of the season to serve as a distraction, says he never considered stepping down as head coach.

Amid speculation about his long-term future, Dungy told Polian he'd be back before Polian could even broach the subject. "The happiest moment that I've had with the Colts," Polian says, "because I couldn't imagine going forward without him."

Dungy says his wife is having a harder time than he is; James (everyone called him Jamie) and his mother were quite close. (Tony politely declined an interview request on Lauren Dungy's behalf.) It's emotional for Lauren, Tony says, whenever she drives past one of James' old schools or near a park. Or when she's alone with her thoughts when the couple's younger children, Jordan and Jade, are asleep and Tony isn't home. Or when they're in a store and a clerk who was a schoolmate of James' wants to share stories about him. Theirs is a pain to which only parents who have lost a child truly can relate.

Somehow, Tony Dungy can accept the possibility that he may never truly come to know why James is gone. It's hard sometimes, though, moving on without his oldest boy. When Tony and Eric attended the Big Ten men's basketball tournament, Tony's thoughts turned to James and he couldn't help but think that he should have been there with them. He thought the same thing at the league meeting in Orlando, Fla., and on a trip to Tampa's Busch Gardens the family took during the playoff bye week, a vacation that originally was to be a fishing trip with just James and Eric. James crossed Tony's mind when he emerged from the tunnel before the emotional finale against Arizona.

"People say you never really totally lose that," Dungy says.

Because the Dungys are such a close family, one that always travels together, and because Tony is such a committed father, it made James' death all the more heartbreaking. And shocking.

"I don't know that we will ever really have any answers," he says. "We've heard from a lot of people … who have been in the same situation and … you never really know for sure. And so we've just tried to look forward and move forward and not really look back too much and search for answers."

He adds, "You never really know why. … That's what most of the people I've talked to, the parents, they're still trying to figure out. Why? What happens that your son or daughter thinks is so difficult that they can't talk to you or they don't? That's what you can't figure out. That's always tough. And then you think about, 'Could I have done something different? What if, what if, what if?' You look behind you, but there's nothing really you can change."

"The day it happened [James' death], he was sad, but he wasn't a wreck or anything. He just kept his faith in God."
Eric Dungy said of his father, TonyEven the strongest among us need consoling. It took a conversation with his friend, Mark Bradshaw, for Tony to realize how selfish it was for him to want James with him rather than in heaven with The Father. When he and Dilfer talked two months ago, they encouraged each other with the belief that their sons were there together. Indeed, Dungy might seem superhuman in how he's coping, but at times he's still only human. He admits he hasn't always been above the feelings of anger and frustration that family and friends of suicide victims often experience.

"You go through that, 'How could you do this to us?' Then common sense prevails and you realize he's not trying to hurt you," Dungy says. "Something was really hurting … inside of him. That's one of the emotions you go through [anger]. You feel sorry for yourself and you're hurting more for yourself than you are for him. Then you realize that's not the right way to go."

Dungy acknowledges that he has had thoughts of, "Why me?"

"You start out like that, but then you realize it's not just you," he said. "It's much more common than we could imagine."

He's learned that it's all too common among young men who seem to "have it all." Dungy says he has had correspondence with at least a dozen families who are dealing with losing a child to suicide who was not considered "at risk."

"It's not the kids who are struggling or that had issues that we would think were issues," Dungy says.

Perhaps Dungy's only real regret as a father is that he hasn't been there for his children as much as his late parents were for theirs. As well as Tony can remember, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy, both teachers, attended every event, every game when he was growing up in Jackson, Mich., and were always home on weekends. Tony's career has kept him from doing the same. Still, he's always prioritized his role as a husband and father ahead of his job and encourages -- much the same way mentors Chuck Noll and Dennis Green did with their teams -- his players and staff to do the same.

Dungy is as committed to his work with All-Pro Dad and Family First as he is to improving his 107-66 career record and capturing that elusive Super Bowl title, though the latter never at the expense of quality time with his family, which he vows will not be defined by this recent tragedy. Dungy takes his children to school and gets out of the office early whenever he can. No first in, last to leave stuff with him. His primary advice for parents -- fathers in particular -- is to just be around and available to their children.

"He sets a tone," Caldwell says. "I think you'll find that every one of us has become a better father being around him."

Of course, Tony Dungy will be spending Father's Day with his children. The Dungys probably won't do anything special. It'll be something simple, something outdoors. Wherever he is, naturally he'll think of his father and reflect upon the profound impact he had on his life. And he'll think of Jamie, and how his life ended much too soon.

But Father's Day won't be a sad day for Tony Dungy. Despite his family's pain, he is able to experience peace, the kind that, as Dilfer put it in paraphrasing a verse from Philippians, comes only from God and transcends understanding. Their faith teaches Dungy that Jamie is in a better place now, that others somehow have and will continue to be blessed by his death, and that someday they'll be together again.

"I've said all along that God is in control," Tony Dungy says.

"I have to believe that he's in control here, too."

06-16-2006, 09:35 AM
Pure and utter class.

06-17-2006, 07:36 PM
this is a companion piece I assume has already been posted

Pastabelly:Father time



Updated: June 16, 2006
Football helped build bond between father and son

By Len Pasquarelli

The Green boys, T.J. and Derek, both have baseball games scheduled for this weekend. And as his father did with him and older brother Troy during their various athletic pursuits as youngsters, Kansas City Chiefs (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=kan) quarterback Trent Green (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=2547) won't miss a single pitch.

What he will miss is being able to spend Father's Day with his dad, Jim Green, who died last October of a heart attack at only 58 years of age, and with no health problems of which his family was aware.

"It's going to be emotional, sure, and it already has been as we get closer [to Father's Day]," Trent Green said Friday afternoon, heading into a weekend where he will typically immerse himself in the type of family activities that were such an important component of his own upbringing. "I think about him every day, and I know I will on Sunday, but I also know I'm blessed to have had the time I did with him and to have had my mom and my [siblings] and all. But I'm sure that, even with the boys' baseball games and all the other things going on, it will be hard."

Many men, in sneaking a wistful peek over their shoulders at their boyhood, think their dad was the absolute greatest guy in the world. Less than eight months removed from his father's passing, Green has more reason than most to stare hard into the mental rearview mirror and some justification for feeling that the reflection therein is even bigger than it appears.

Because that's the kind of impact Jim Green clearly had on his youngest son.

As complicated as the male bonding process is presented as being, it is characteristically less complex than analysts suggest. In the case of Jim and Trent Green, it can be reduced to a simple equation: Jim Green loved football and his son. Trent Green loved his dad and, even though he was a little leery the first time his father signed him up to play tackle football in the seventh grade, he came to share Jim Green's passion for the sport that has enabled him to earn a nice livelihood and helped to make him one of the most embraced athletes in Kansas City history, on and off the field.

There wasn't, it seems, much pretense about Jim Green. He was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, starred in football at Jefferson High School, where his team was undefeated his senior season, played at a small South Dakota college for a couple years, then went off to Vietnam. Upon returning from the war, he enrolled at the University of Iowa and finished his degree work. Too old to resume his career, he may have lost his chance at a career in the game he loved, but he never lost his love for football.

And so when Trent Green was 12 years old and starring in AAU basketball tournaments, Jim Green tossed him a football and suggested that his youngest son try the sport for just a year. Nearly two dozen years later, Trent hasn't put down the football yet, thanks in part to his dad, who basically wouldn't let him.

"When I was in the seventh grade, I actually played left tackle and free safety, if you can believe it," Green said. "In the eighth grade, I was a wide receiver and a free safety, and my brother was the other receiver. Our quarterback broke his collarbone, and we needed someone to play, and it was my dad who went to the coach and suggested he try me. The coach, he didn't know if I could play [quarterback] or not. But my dad had watched me and Troy throwing the ball in the yard every day, and he knew I could do it. He always had faith that I could."

Thus was born a quarterback who has persevered through some trying times. An eighth-round choice of the San Diego Chargers (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=sdg) in 1993 after a solid career at Indiana, Green was released twice, including by British Columbia of the CFL, before settling onto a roster. In his first three seasons with the Washington Redskins (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=was) (1995-97), he threw one pass before a breakout campaign in 1998 earned him a big free-agent contract from the St. Louis Rams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=stl). But in the '99 preseason, Green tore two ligaments in his left knee and watched as the Rams won the Super Bowl and his replacement, Kurt Warner (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=4541), captured league Most Valuable Player honors. In 2001, he was dealt to the Chiefs.

Through it all, Jim Green was there, watching his son compile a résumé that some might be surprised to discover includes the eighth-best career passer rating in history. Well, Jim was there until last October.

Trent Green can recall watching the Monday Night Football game on Dec. 22, 2003 in which Brett Favre (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=1025) played so heroically against the Oakland Raiders (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=oak), throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns just one day after his father died of a heart attack. While he marveled at Favre's performance and how his Packers teammates rallied around him, Green never envisioned himself in a similar situation. "At that point," Green said, "it's not something you think about. You just watch Brett and think, 'How can he do that?' You can't put yourself into that situation. It's impossible to relate to something like that."

And then, last Oct. 30, Green found out he could, indeed, relate.

Playing at San Diego, three days after Jim Green died, with funeral arrangements still pending, operating on a truncated practice week, Green played marvelously, especially in the second half of the loss. Even his opponents praised his performance in the teeth of personal adversity and numbing loss, with Chargers counterpart Drew Brees (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=5479) terming the performance "inspiring."

"You never know how you're going to react until you're , and you're just trying to make a play and then build on it," Green said. "You don't want to try to do too much, just because you're playing for a special reason. You try to be yourself … but it's not easy."

Nor was it easy the following week, in the Chiefs' first home game following his father's burial, for Green to climb the stairs at Arrowhead Stadium, to locate Jim Green's place in Section 121, and to tape a hand-lettered placard to the seat, which read: "Jim Green, we miss him and we love him."

Eight months after he didn't want anyone to occupy Jim Green's seat at Arrowhead Stadium, memories of his late father will certainly occupy some of Trent Green's time this weekend. On Friday, he reminisced about attending Iowa football games on Saturday afternoons, about watching the only NFL game on TV the next day, hurrying out to the front yard at halftime with his brother, to emulate the players they had seen on the screen, and then returning for the second half.

When he was younger, on Father's Day, the Green family would pack up the car, round up some friends and neighbors and drive to southern Missouri for a weekend of camping, fishing and canoeing, what Trent called a "float trip." There weren't as many such outings as the Green kids grew older. But chances are that, maybe between innings of his sons' games this weekend, Trent Green will take a mental "float trip" to the past.

"My dad was such a patient man," Green said. "He was a salesman, then a manager, and people really enjoyed dealing with him. At his funeral, a lot of the people who attended were former customers and they seemed to have [fond] memories of him. That patience of his, it's something I've taken into some life situations, but probably not enough. I've got kind of a perfectionist personality. I'm really hard on myself. There were times I'd be beating myself up, or things weren't going well, some of the tough times, and he would sit and tell me, 'People would give a million dollars to be doing what you're doing. Do you know how lucky you are?'"

The guess is that, even on the toughest Father's Day he'll have experienced to this point in his 35 years, an appreciative Trent Green will, indeed, know how lucky he was.

[i]Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here (http://sports.espn.go.com/chat/sportsnation/story?page=ChatArchivePasquarelli) http://espn.go.com/i/in.gif.

06-17-2006, 08:06 PM
I really like Dungy, but so far he's just Marty with a good tan.

Hey, someone has to tell it like it is.


06-17-2006, 08:10 PM
Nice read-Dungy is a great man and coach.

06-18-2006, 06:41 AM
I really like Dungy, but so far he's just Marty with a good tan.

Hey, someone has to tell it like it is.


I agree to a certain extent. He may be a little conservative at times but if Peyton wasn't such a egotistical primedonna (spelling?) he might actually get past the conference championship game.

Marty with a good tan? ROFL

this is a companion piece I assume has already been posted

Pastabelly:Father time[/i]

Thanks for the read. Trent is class as well! :thumb: