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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Colts lover gets a new hero

December 11, 2006

I was quarterback for the Colts once.

I was about 9 years old and I was playing pee-wee football at Meridian Street Methodist Church.

As all the kids gathered to be selected for a team on the first morning, I somehow finagled my way on to the Colts. I had to, because the Baltimore Colts were my favorite NFL team at the time.

My hero was Johnny Unitas, thought by some even today to be the best quarterback ever to play the game. He's the only sports figure to whom I ever sent a fan letter.

As a youngster, I followed the Colts for years and watched many a game, including the sudden-death victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship. Some call it the greatest NFL game ever played.

It was Unitas' finest hour. He throttled a tough Giants defense with a game-ending drive that resulted in a field goal to tie the score. He then led the Colts offense on another dramatic drive to win.

In a cloud of dust, fullback Alan Ameche bulled his way into the end zone to make the score 23-17. Game over. Giants: suddenly dead.

Even in my college years and after-when sports took a back seat to music and other forms of recreation-I still made a point of checking the Colts' scores.

It was a love affair I never quite got over, so it was no small irony for me when the team ended up in Indianapolis. Talk about karma.

But things are different now. I'm not so easily enraptured by things like sports teams and their stars.

Since the Colts arrived here in 1984, I've followed the team's fortunes and watched many a game, but more as an interested party as opposed to an avid fan.

I certainly appreciate Peyton Manning's greatness and the record-breaking 100 touchdowns on which he's connected with Marvin Harrison, even though in the process of setting the new record the pair has surpassed my Unitas-Raymond Berry tandem.

I've outgrown the idea of heroes, especially from the world of sports-for the most part, that is.

I actually just found a new hero and, amazingly, he's a Colt. But this Colt isn't on the playing field during a game and doesn't wear a helmet. He walks the sidelines and wears a headset most of the time. His name is Tony Dungy.

I got a chance to chat with the coach Dec. 5 during breakfast at an IBJ event at the convention center. After breakfast, he answered questions from me, IBJ sports columnist Bill Benner and audience members for close to an hour.

The event benefited All Pro Dads, an organization Dungy started in Tampa, Fla., that provides resources for men interested in becoming better fathers. It's a mission that is close to the coach's heart and one that has taken hold in other NFL cities, including Indianapolis.

In these days when the world of sports is filled with superstars with super egos pulling down super salaries, it is refreshing to know the man who coaches our city's professional football team is the real deal.

He's everything he's cracked up to be.

No doubt, Dungy is a great coach, and history will prove him so. But first and foremost, Dungy is a downto-earth human being with a head that's screwed on straight and feet that are planted firmly on the ground.

He's genuine, warm and sincere; he doesn't put on airs. He's a man driven by values, faith and ethics and he seems quite comfortable in his own skin. It was a real pleasure to be with him.

When it comes to priorities in life, Dungy has it straight. First comes faith, then comes family, then comes football. He appears adept at all of them. Go Colts!



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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