Tony Dungy is a man who wears many hats: football coach, father of 11, NFL analyst, adoptive dad, New York Times bestselling author, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, among others.
But the title that the former star athlete and Super Bowl champion puts before any other is “Christian.”
When he is interviewed about his 13 years of experience as a head coach at the highest level of football, Dungy often makes it clear that his faith in Christ has been the primary driving factor of both his life off and on the field.
He made that particularly clear when he talked about the time he prepared a speech following his team’s victory in Super Bowl XLI.
“I just said I have to let people know my motivation, and it was being a Christian coach,” he recalled on his YouTube show “Beyond the Game.”
Dungy will be speaking at the 2023 March for Life on Friday, the first March for Life since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
It will be Dungy’s first time at the march, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Here are seven things to know about the first African American head coach to win an NFL Super Bowl.
Father of 11 children, eight of whom were adopted
Dungy and his wife, Lauren, became adoptive parents around the year 2000 during his head coaching gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and his wife were inspired after Dungy made a public service announcement highlighting the need for African American adoptive parents, The Oklahoman reported in June 2021.
When Lauren Dungy suggested that they take the announcement a step further, the two adopted a baby boy two months later, the outlet reported.
The outlet reported that the couple has adopted eight children total in the last two decades. They are the parents of 11 children. The Dungys lost one child to suicide in 2005, and the former coach speaks openly about how his faith in Christ pushed him through such a difficult time.
Dungy’s 11 kids plus three foster children
On the Today Show in August 2022, the couple talked about their newly released book, “Uncommon Influence: Saying Yes to a Purposeful Life,” in which they write about being foster parents.
Lauren Dungy said on the show that “we’ve had over 100 children come through our door,” adding that “we’re currently parenting three” foster children.
Baptist News Global published an excerpt from the book: “We’ve been married 40 years. We have 11 children and three foster kids. So, a lot is on our plate,” Lauren Dungy wrote. “It is a lot to unpack, but we wanted to let everyone know that they can live a life and marriage of purpose for the Lord.”
First African American NFL coach to win a Super Bowl
In 2007, Tony Dungy brought the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. The game was Dungy’s first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach and starred quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the leader of the Colts’ offense.
On the first play of the game, the Bears’ lethal kick-returner Devin Hester brought back the opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown. The stadium erupted and the Colts looked like they knew they were in the danger zone.
But it would be the Colts who had the last laugh, as Dungy’s team would end up striking back several times to win the game 29-17.
At the trophy ceremony after the game, Dungy said that he was “proud” to be the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl, according to the AP.
“But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith [the Bears’ head coach] and I are not only African American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”
Dungy’s postgame Super Bowl speech, where he credits Jesus Christ, can be seen below.
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Calling out Sen. Raphael Warnock, a ‘pro-choice pastor’
Dungy took aim at Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia in early 2022 for comments the senator made promoting abortion in the name of Jesus Christ.
Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which describes itself as “an urban-based, global ministry dedicated to individual growth and social transformation through living in the message and carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ.”
Warnock, who recently won reelection in 2022, tweeted on May 2, 2022:
As a pro-choice pastor, I’ve always believed that a patient's room is way too small for a woman, her doctor, and the United States government.
I'll always fight to protect a woman's right to choose. And that will never change.
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) May 3, 2022
The tweet sparked controversy and Dungy weighed in:
It all comes down to what you believe about the organism growing inside the mother. Is it a life or not? If it is just growing tissue then your “choice” makes sense. If it’s a life then it’s obviously not OK to choose to end it. What does your Bible tell you it is? Psalm 139:16 https://t.co/E7dCk6NMmL
Psalm 139:16 says: “Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”
A Christian upbringing
Dungy often credits his Christian faith to his strong upbringing by two loving parents, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy.
“My dad always preached to us to set our goals high and not complain about negative circumstances. Just look for a way to make things better. My mom taught us as a Christian, your character, your integrity, and how you honor God were so much more important than your job title,” Dungy said in his 2016 speech after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“One of her favorite Bible verses was Matthew 16:26 — ‘what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.’ And I know that she’s happy to know that her son never forgot that verse,” he said.
Hall of Fame induction
Dungy had an impressive career as a head coach, boasting four appearances in championship games, two of which he won, one of which was the Super Bowl.
Dungy has seen his share of losses in big games. As coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1999 NFC Championship game, Dungy’s team fell 11-6. His Colts lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game 24-14.
However, in 2006, Dungy’s Colts would see the Patriots again in the same game and win in stunning fashion 38-34, leading them to the Super Bowl against the Bears.
Dungy was named NFL coach of the year in 1997 while coaching the Buccaneers and again in 2005 while with the Colts. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s as well. He only had one losing season in his 13 years as a head coach.
During his induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 2016, Dungy said: “The Lord has truly led me on a wonderful journey through 31 years in the NFL, through some temporary disappointments to some incredible joys. I cherish every single relationship that I was able to make over those 31 years, and I’ll always be grateful to the National Football League for giving me my life’s work.”
Dungy was a player on the Super Bowl XIII-winning Pittsburgh Steelers
After a successful college career as a quarterback at the University of Minnesota, Dungy played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dungy made one tackle during the intense 1979 Super Bowl XIII game between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys in Miami, according to Pro Football Reference. Almost 80,000 people were in attendance to see the Steelers best the Cowboys 35-31. A highlight of the game can be seen here.
Dungy would later become an assistant coach for the Steelers, beginning his successful career in coaching.
Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency. Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.
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