Tony Dungy Enshrinement speech
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
August 6, 2016
Thank you very much. Thank you. I'm pretty much like all these guys today when I found out I had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I just couldn't believe it, even though our 10-year-old son, Justin, had promised me this was my year. I'm now the 10th Steeler from the Super Bowl XIII team to be enshrined. But you could have won a lot of money in '78 if you had bet that I would be one of those ten.
I remember making a tackle my rookie year, and Dwight White asking in the huddle, What's your name again? How are you still on the team?
So it really is kind of a miracle that I'm here and I'm thrilled to have my Steeler roommate and should-be Hall of Famer, Donnie Shell, presenting me.
Seriously, though, when I got the news, my first thoughts were of all the people God placed in my path to help make this possible. It started in Jackson, Michigan, and I couldn't have had a better upbringing. I'm just sorry that my parents, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy, aren't alive to see this, because they'd be so proud. 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.
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.
My sisters, Sherri and Lauren, and my brother, Linden, were always there for me as well. Both sides of our family -- the Dungy and Dean grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins -- have been great supporters for me and tremendous role models. So many of them are here tonight, and I'd like to thank them for being who you are.
Had a lot of excellent coaches growing up in all sports, but I really have to thank my high school football coach, Dave Driscoll. I came to him as a 14-year-old who felt like I knew it all, and Coach Driscoll helped me become a good player, but more than that, he helped me become a leader. He taught me how to think the game.
Woody Widenhofer and Tom Moore were the coaches who recruited me to the University of Minnesota, and I thank them for impacting my life.
Woody would end up coaching me with the Steelers, and Tom Moore, you heard Marvin talking about Tom, well, Tom rode with me on the very first plane ride I ever took, my recruiting trip to Minnesota when I was scared to get on the plane. He was my quarterback coach as a freshman, and then 33 years later, he was our offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLI with the Colts, and he's still coaching now, and I owe him a lot. Thank you, Tom, thank you, Woody, and a big thank you to our head coach of the Gophers, Cal Stoll, who told us as freshman he expected us to be uncommon and not just average. And that thought stuck with me throughout my life.
Well, after four years of playing quarterback at Minnesota I expected to continue doing that in the NFL, but it didn't happen. In 1977, even though the draft was 12-rounds long then, I didn't get picked, and I was devastated. But it just is one example of God's plans being better than our plans. Woody and Tom were now in Pittsburgh coaching, and they convinced Chuck Noll to give a guy who had never played any position but quarterback a shot at another position. I have to say that $2,000 signing bonus I got didn't last long, but I ended up gaining a lot more than money. Chuck Noll would play a huge, huge role in my life and teach me so much about the game of football.
But in our first meeting, he said that even though we were now professionals and we're being paid to play the game, we shouldn't make it our life. There was more to life than just football, and he wanted to help us find our life's work. Coach Noll, Art Rooney, Sr., and Dan Rooney lived that out every day in the way they led the Steeler organization. There were so many great players on that team, a lot of them up here right now as I speak today, and they all had an impact on me, but none of them more so than Donnie Shell. Donnie took me under his wing and I learned so much from him. Not just about playing safety, but about being a Christian athlete, a husband and father and a teammate. Thank you, Donnie.
After getting a Super Bowl ring my second year, I experienced another disappointment, getting traded. But, again, the Lord was using disappointment to help me grow. With the San Francisco 49ers, I got to play for Bill Walsh and see another system. And Eddie DeBartolo was instilling the same principles in his team that I had seen with the Steelers, doing everything in a first-class and family way.
My playing career only lasted one year, and suddenly at 25 years old I was looking for a real job. That's when Coach Noll called me and gave me that chance to start my life's work. Coming back to Pittsburgh was the beginning of my coaching journey, but there was another blessing in store for me, meeting my beautiful wife, Lauren. The love of my life, my biggest supporter, and my greatest blessing.
Lauren spent the first 27 years of our marriage as a coach's wife making so many sacrifices, and there is no way I'd be here tonight without her. Marrying Lauren also gave me another family, the Harrises, who provided plenty of love and support over the years, and also plenty of arm-chair quarterbacking. Our first wave of children came soon after we got married. Tiara, Jamie and Eric's lives were typical of assistant coach's kids: moving every three years, leaving friends, making new friends. And they did it without complaining.
Now our second wave of kids -- Jordan, Jade, Justin, Jason, Jalen, Jaden, and Jaela -- well, they had a little more stability. Jordan and Jade were able to experience some of the perks of being the head coach's kids, but they also had their disappointments like when Dad couldn't come to a birthday party or school performance. But all ten of them know I love them, and I hope they know how much I appreciate their sacrifices.
Well, getting to that head coaching job was a long journey from Pittsburgh to Kansas City to Minnesota. 15 great years and a lot of wonderful people.
But I have to thank two people in particular. During my four years with the Vikings, Tom Lamphere, our chaplain, met with me weekly, going through the book of Nehemiah, to give me a picture of biblical leadership that I would use to guide my teams. Thank you, Tom.
And Denny Green. Denny went out of his way to teach me the responsibilities of being a head coach, taught me about things on and off the field. He did it because he wanted to see me become a head coach, and he wanted me to be prepared and be ready when that opportunity came, and I love him for that.
But as much as I appreciate that, the thing I'm most grateful to Denny for is that he made sure his assistant coaches had quality time with our families. He let my boys come to camp and be around their dad. He made sure we were able to be husbands and fathers as well as coaches. And just as Coach Noll had done, Denny showed me that you could win doing it that way.
I thanked him many, many, many times over the years, but I really wish I could thank him one more time tonight for everything he did to help me take that final step. That step came in 1996 when I got the job I thought I'd never get, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I thank Rich McKay who headed up the search, and Bryan, Joel, and Ed Glazer for their confidence in me. And I'm especially grateful to Malcolm Glazer who was so supportive and so loving and gave me so much practical advice. Our family enjoyed a phenomenal six years in Tampa. 1997 was probably my favorite year in coaching. We made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and the Bucs fans went crazy over their team, and those fans still remain special to me to this day.
Losing my job in 2002 after a playoff loss was another painful disappointment, but, again, God used it to lead me to a blessing. That's when Jim Irsay called and gave me the opportunity to join him and Bill Polian in Indianapolis. Like Rich McKay, Bill had an exceptional eye for talent, and he built a tremendous football team. We had a lot of fun over the next seven years highlighted by that Super Bowl XLI victory. But I'll tell you, the most satisfying part was doing what Jim talked about in that first phone conversation, connecting with our community and making the Colts an integral part of the Indianapolis landscape.
I'd like to thank you big time, Jim and Bill and the Colts fans. You made us feel like native Hoosiers, and our family loves you.
But the biggest reason I'm here tonight is the people I was able to work with during my 13 years as a head coach. I had fantastic assistant coaches in Tampa and in Indianapolis, and some awesome staff people. I wish I had time to recognize them individually because they were the big reason why we were successful.
You don't win in the NFL without players, and was I ever blessed with players. Again, I'm not going to recognize them all individually, but so many of them are here tonight and I'm going to ask them to stand while I talk about them. There are a bunch up here on this podium I'd like to stand, guys who played for me. There are some in my section, in Marvin's section. If you played for me, I would love for you to stand up so I could recognize you.
As you see, several of them are in the Hall of Fame already, others are certainly going to follow them, and there's no doubt these guys are responsible for me being up here today. I thank you guys. I love you, every one of you. Thank you.
I'm so honored to be in the same Hall of Fame class as Marvin Harrison. We spent seven years together, and I know how hard Marvin worked, how much he sacrificed to be the best, the very best he could be. But that just exemplifies every one of those guys, all of our players were so special. I want to thank that group of men -- Steelers, Chiefs, Vikings, Bucs and Colts -- not only for their dedication on the field, but for buying into what we wanted off the field, for embracing their roles as leaders in the community. I love you guys for that as well.
Finally, I'd like to say a special thank you to ten men -- Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Earnel Durden, Bob Ledbetter, Elijah Pitts, Jimmy Raye, Johnny Roland, Al Tabor, Lionel Taylor, and Allan Webb. Now, those names might not be familiar to you, but those were the African-American assistant coaches in the NFL in 1977, my first year in the league. It was a small group of men, just ten of them, if you can believe that, ten African-American assistant coaches in the entire NFL. Many of them never got the chance to move up the coaching ladder like I did, but they were so important to the progress of this league.
Those men were like my dad. They didn't complain about the lack of opportunities. They found ways to make the situation better. They were role models and mentors for me and my generation of young African-American players like Ray Rhodes, Terry Robiskie, and Herm Edwards. We were in the '80s trying to decide if we could make coaching a career or not. Without those ten coaches laying the groundwork, the league would not have the 200-plus minority assistant coaches it has today, and we would not have had Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy coaching against each other in Super Bowl XLI.
So tonight as I join Fritz Pollard as the second African-American coach in the Hall of Fame, I feel like I'm representing those ten men and all the African-American coaches who came before me and paved the way, and I thank them very, very much.
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. Thank you, and God bless.