JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Today’s youth need adults to be actively involved in their lives to encourage them to be “uncommon,” former NFL coach Tony Dungy said. “You never know what small step can make a big difference in young people’s lives.”
Dungy, keynote speaker for an April 18 banquet in behalf of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., underscored the importance of children and teenagers being true to themselves and not simply following the crowd. Too often, youth are bombarded with the messages that drugs and alcohol are OK, that education is not important and that sexual promiscuity is acceptable, Dungy said.
“Our young people aren’t getting the whole truth,” he stated.
That’s why they need adults who are concerned about the welfare of society to invest themselves in young people’s lives by volunteering for community organizations. “We’re going to need some faith in action,” Dungy said.
Following his remarks, Dungy answered questions from Union University President David S. Dockery, who asked how the coach managed to be successful at the NFL level while still being a “nice guy.”
“I believe that Christ was really a nice guy, and He didn’t finish last,” Dungy said. “I felt that I could use God’s principles and He would allow me to succeed.”
Dungy also fielded a question about the current NFL labor dispute, saying he thinks the matter will be resolved prior to the scheduled start of the 2011 season.
Dungy’s wife Laurean, in comments prior to her husband’s address, talked about the importance of supporting Christian education in today’s society. She described the United States as being at a crossroads and said Americans may have to do things that make them uncomfortable as they seek to make a difference in the lives of others.
“We have to trust God and let Him help us through the doubts and fears that we may have,” she said.
Dungy, in an interview during his visit to the Union campus, said he wishes men took fatherhood more seriously.
“I think men really have to understand what our role is,” said Dungy, a father of seven. “We haven’t done a great job of that. I think we’ve kind of bought into the misconception that if we just provide financially, that’s all that’s important.”
Too many men mistakenly believe that mothers are the primary ones to nurture and raise children, Dungy said.
“God didn’t really intend it that way,” he said. “Husband and wife, that’s the way the family was set up to function the best. We’ve got to get back to that. There’s so much that the dads bring to the table in terms of not just stability, but teaching and role modeling, for not only boys, but also for the daughters to see what their future husband should look like.”
For Dungy, part of responsible fatherhood means making sure his family is actively involved in a local church. Families make friends and build relationships in a number of places — such as school, work and the local community, Dungy said.
“For us, those community relationships really do stem from the church,” he said. “Growing, learning, but also just enjoying company of other people, especially believers.”
The Dungy family are members of Central Tampa Baptist Church, which began as a mission of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla.
Dungy became the first black coach to win the Super Bowl when he led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in 2007. He played three seasons in the NFL and held assistant coaching positions with the University of Minnesota, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings before taking the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996 and then the Colts in 2002.
He retired from coaching in 2008 and now serves as an analyst for NBC’s “Football Night in America.” He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling books “Quiet Strength” and “Uncommon.”
Dungy was the keynote speaker at Union University’s third annual Roy L. White Legacy Golf and Gala at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson. The banquet drew about 1,500 people, raising $375,000 for the university, and completed a day that began with a golf tournament at the Jackson Country Club.
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports (www.BPSports.net) and director of news and media relations at Union University.