SPORTS: Tony Dungy is much more than a football coach

October 27, 2008

Of this, that and the other:

It was my pleasure to co-moderate (with IBJ's Anthony Schoettle) last week's IBJ "Power Breakfast" featuring Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

This was the third year I'd shared the stage with Dungy, the Super Bowl-winning coach who most of us know by now is also a best-selling author, a man of deep faith, and a committed social activist, the latter best exemplified by his involvement with his mentoring program, All-Pro Dads.

A Westin Hotel ballroom was packed for Dungy's appearance and he delighted the audience with 45 minutes of insights and observations. He is truly a captivating figure.

Space prohibits inclusion of all Dungy's thoughts, but among the highlights:

On his yearly evaluation process of whether to stay in coaching: "I love my job, I really love our team, I really enjoy working for Jim Irsay, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to produce a winning team. But every year I get a stronger pull to do other things. There's going to come a time when I want to do that full time, but right now I feel like I can still balance both."

On coaching another team: "No, this will definitely be the last stop."

On coaching here when his family has moved to Tampa: "It's tough, a sacrifice. I've been able to get down on Fridays a lot and they get up to the home games. We don't see each other as much, but we have a lot of cell phone and text time and we have a video phone that my kids think is like 'The Wizard of Oz,' that they can see the man behind the screen."

On his new book, "Uncommon," which will be released in February:

"'Uncommon' will be a passion of mine directed toward young men for the most part. It's about how you can be different, not follow the crowd, not do everything the crowd wants you to do. Dare to step out of that crowd, be uncommon, do things you know are right, how to stand up to peer pressure."

On ever running for political office:

"One of the great privileges I've had in this job was the chance to have lunch with Colin Powell, and I asked him, 'Why wouldn't you run for president?' And he said, 'Right now, everybody likes me. As soon as I run for president, half the people won't.' I thought that was a good perspective on things. So I don't think I'll ever run for public office, but I think I will be involved in things that will help people's lives become better."

On whom he would have lunch with, if he could choose anyone: "John Wooden, who is still going strong. Every time I read something from him, he has great insights on developing young men and winning. And Nelson Mandela, to find out what could give someone the inner strength and drive to stay in prison for 27 years for a cause you believe is right."

On how he manages the multiple demands on his time: "I really feel like the Lord put me in this job for a number of reasons. The head coaching job of the Indianapolis Colts does have a tremendous platform and I want to use that to help people. So you have to make sacrifices. It is time-consuming, so you have to determine your family time, your work and what else you can do. But in those other hours, I do want to help out ... with things that have a lasting impact."

There was more, so much more, all of it thoughtful. If you have the opportunity to hear this man, don't pass on it.

Two more items.

The Indiana Pacers open their season on the road Oct. 29, at Detroit, then come home Nov. 1 to face the defending champion Boston Celtics. While Mike Dunleavy's lingering knee issue is troubling to say the least, I believe this is a team our city can begin to feel good about again. Draft choices Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert will have an impact-and soon. Ditto for the acquired talents of T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack. I predict the Pacers will be back in the playoffs next April.

And, in closing, it was sad to hear of the passing of former IHSAA Commissioner Gene Cato, 77, and even sadder still that his death was barely more than a footnote in the local media. Cato's life was dedicated to the positive influences of education and athletics on the lives of young people. He was a fine man.

Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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